President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUPPLIED
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUPPLIED

It was refreshing to read Claire Bisseker’s piece on the shortcomings of business’s approach to SA’s economic future (“SA’s political economy is a merry-go-round; no wonder we’re sick to our stomachs”, August 24).

Business’s engagement with the government has failed because it misdiagnosed the problems. We at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) have long argued that the ideological assumptions of the governing party have not only undermined a reform agenda, but have pushed proposals that are inimical to one — at least insofar as a productive reform agenda might be understood by business.

This has been a powerful policy driver under President Cyril Ramaphosa. And, contrary to widespread expectation, has been affirmed rather than disavowed under the economic trauma of Covid-19 and the lockdown. Bear this in mind as the country heads towards a “state-led recovery”.

The issue on which this will turn in the near future is property rights and the policy of expropriation without compensation. The government’s sights are still set on gutting section 25 of the constitution and expanding the latitude for the state to seize property. (This, incidentally, does little to address the real problems besetting land reform — it is a fundamentally ideological, not pragmatic, commitment.)

Nor is this a threat directed only at agriculture. With the fiscal cupboards bare, the temptation to go after savings and pension funds will grow. Prescribed assets are a real possibility. It remains to be seen how business will respond. The plan released by Business For SA requests “clarity” on property rights. This is inadequate.

Will business recognise the ideological nature of the policy drive? More to the point, will business fulsomely oppose it? If it is committed to a prosperous and stable future for the country, it cannot avoid confronting this reality.

Terence Corrigan
Institute of Race Relations

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