Tanya Cohen, CEO of Business Unity SA. Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE
Tanya Cohen, CEO of Business Unity SA. Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE

Organised business in SA has expressed satisfaction with the continuing deliberations around the land-reform process, including expropriation without compensation, but called for the speedy resolution of the matter as it will be key in terms of bringing about the policy certainty necessary to attract investment.   

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May endorsed SA’s approach to land reform, but emphasised that the process must be legal and transparent. Speaking during a business forum in Cape Town, May downplayed suggestions that the process could hurt SA’s drive to attract investment, saying the UK was, in fact, looking to invest heavily in SA and Africa in the coming years.

“By 2022, I want the UK to be the G7’s number one investor in Africa, with Britain’s private-sector companies taking the lead,” said May. The G7, a group comprising some of the world’s major industrialised nations, but which does not include China, is a key investor on the continent.

May was in SA as part of a three-nation visit to Africa in an effort to strengthen Britain's economic relations with the continent, ahead of the UK's exit from the EU in 2019. She is due to visit Nigeria and Kenya this week.

Tanya Cohen, CEO of Business Unity SA (Busa), the association representing organised business in SA, said May’s visit presented a massive opportunity for SA to unlock new investment from the UK. Cohen was part of a local delegation that attended a closed-door business roundtable hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa which was attended by May, as well as international and local investors.

“I think the issues raised by international investors reflect the issues that local investors have been raising. We have seen changes from a policy perspective, which are positive,” said Cohen, citing among other things, the release of the long-awaited draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), and proposed changes to proposed a new mining charter. The policy changes area “positive step towards policy certainty,” said Cohen.

On land reform, Cohen said that while there was a lot of concern around the matter “what gives us comfort is that we are being engaged as business, community, and labour in general.”

She said land reform could not be ignored. “It’s always an issue raised and it was raised today by the president and potential investors. However, the explanation [for land reform and expropriation without compensation] is compelling. It is an issue that needs to be resolved in a sustainable way to create policy certainty."

Earlier on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said the government had embarked on a programme of accelerated land reform to ensure “this fundamental resource is equitably shared among all South Africans; that the agricultural sector is transformed; that urban spatial distortions are corrected; and that the economic potential of the country’s land is unlocked.”

Said Ramaphosa: “There is a vibrant and healthy debate underway within society on the circumstances under which land reform should take place. This presents us with an opportunity to strengthen the property rights of all our people; to provide certainty to investors and to our people; and to achieve consensus on a land-reform programme that will contribute to economic growth, job creation and the reduction of poverty."


Correction: August 28, 2018

An earlier version of this article indicated in the headline that Busa was pleased with the land-reform process. Busa is in fact happy about the consultation on the process.