You can take Ramaphosa at his word

John Kane-Berman says there is nothing surprising about the shattering of the President's "dream"

The front-page headline in BusinessDay over last week's economic growth figures said it all: "Ramaphosa's growth dream in tatters." The operative word is "dream". Cyril Ramaphosa's promises about reaching a growth rate of 3% this year have never been anything but "dreams".

Unfortunately, his pronouncements have been taken seriously by newspapers and by various analysts. In essence, we have been told that he is a master negotiator who always plays "the long game". At the end of this "game", he will supposedly pull a rabbit out of a hat at a "jobs summit" or an "investment summit" or one or another of the "summits" the South African commentariat thinks are a panacea for whatever might be impeding economic growth.

BusinessDay was itself at it again in its comment on the fact that South Africa had now entered its first recession since 2009. Said the paper's editorial: "[Ramaphosa] needs to do what he does best and build a consensus on how to kickstart the country's economy."

As for the South African president himself, he was in China reassuring his hosts that "we have a revolutionary approach". According to Alec Hogg of BizNews he was also "happily citing Mao", one of the world's "most evil dictators" responsible for the deaths of between 40 and 80 million of his fellow citizens and a man who got a "mixed press" even in China.

Unlike the print media, the IRR has been sceptical about Mr Ramaphosa all along. Back in March we suggested that his "long game" was actually to bring about a Marxist-Leninist "national democratic revolution" in South Africa in accordance with the long-standing policy of the African National Congress (ANC). His fond remarks in China about "revolution" and "fraternal countries in the socialist camp" tend to confirm that the national democratic revolution may well be his long-term "game".

The print media, and nearly all practising members of the commentariat, nevertheless maintain their policy of avoiding any reference to any national democratic revolution. They continue with their silence even though the expropriation of land (and other property) without compensation would be in line with that revolutionary agenda. Can they not connect the dots? Do they still not understand the ANC?

Back in May the IRR asked rhetorically whether the ANC was "actually serious about investment and growth". Nothing that Mr Ramaphosa has said since then suggests that the answer might be "yes". Two months ago, in fact, he said, "If we were ever serious about anything, [land] is the one thing we are deadly serious about."

He also said that "the return of land to our people will unleash enormous growth in our economy". This is nonsense so obvious that one wonders whether he believes it. If he does, this country is in very serious trouble.

Some of South Africa's business leaders have encouraged Mr Ramaphosa in his views on expropriation. "As business we support expropriation without compensation," said the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), Bonang Mohale, in the Sunday Times in June. (It would be interesting to know how many of his corporate members – among them many of the country's movers and shakers in banking and other business – agree with him.)

Accompanying President Ramaphosa last week in China was our hapless finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene. The government, he says, has a plan that will be unveiled in his medium-term budget policy statement in October. Further details will evidently be released during the investment conference in October. The IRR has been sceptical of Mr Ramaphosa's $100 million investment target over the next five years ever since he first mentioned this figure back in April. That was even before he signed the Protection of Investment Act, whose effect will be the reverse of that proclaimed in its title.

BusinessDay thinks Mr Ramaphosa should build a consensus to "kickstart" the economy (whatever that might mean). In fact, Mr Ramaphosa is busy trying to build another consensus – in favour of expropriation without compensation. His efforts need to be unequivocally counteracted at every turn until such time as he abandons this ruinous objective.

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. If you agree with what you have just read then click here or SMS your name to 32823.