Ramaphosa's wake-up call on land to slumbering analysts
Ever since Cyril Ramaphosa became president of the African National Congress and spoke on expropriation without compensation (EWC), the weight of published opinion among journalists and economic and investment analysts has been that his statements have been mainly tactical positioning to help him consolidate his leadership and win the next election. He can then, so we are told, rget on with all the "structural reforms" for which he will by then supposedly have obtained a "mandate".
In the view of these commentators, Mr Ramaphosa has "no choice but to pursue expropriation without compensation". His statements are "a symptom of political manoeuvring [rather than] a genuine policy shift". He is merely executing a "populist feint". He is just "kicking for touch" and his pronouncements are simply a "handy election issue" after which "other priorities will take over".
The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has been almost alone in questioning this soothing analysis. In the first place, the analysis ignores the possibility that the promises of EWC arise from Mr Ramaphosa's oft-stated commitment to his party's policy of bringing about a national democratic revolution. Secondly, the analysis ignores the extent to which Mr Ramaphosa has himself helped to fuel demands for EWC.
He has thus described the Land Acts as "the original colonial sin" of "violent dispossession". EWC does not count as "taking land from people" since it is "merely restoring land to its original owners". Mr Ramaphosa has also claimed that EWC is urgently required because black Africans own only 4% of individual farms in the country. To choose the lowest of several estimates and ignore the others is to add fuel to the flames, not to pour oil on troubled waters.
The outcome has been predictable. As Mr Ramaphosa said in his televised broadcast last week, "It has become patently clear that our people want the Constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation, as demonstrated in the public hearings". The claim by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that this announcement amounts to "capitulation to the demands of the people" is only half true. Mr Ramaphosa has helped to inflame those demands, no doubt to further the "long game" at which the analysts tell us he is so adept.