This must be the year of the fightback

John Kane-Berman says the ANC is pushing ahead with numerous destructive policies

Forget the declaration earlier this month by the African National Congress (ANC) that 2020 must be "the year of unity, socio-economic renewal, and nation building". This must be the year of intensified and widening fightback against that party's increasingly destructive policies.

Prominent on the list are expropriation without compensation, erosion of private health care, new threats to the mining industry, and control of sport. Owners of private property, doctors, private healthcare companies, medical aids, the mining industry, businesses that depend upon mining, sportsmen and women, and the "fitness industry" are among those who need to recognise that they are all in the same boat.

Their rights and interests are threatened by a corrupt and incompetent government whose overriding purpose is to transfer powers from the private domain to itself. In so doing it will further extend the scope of its patronage, the object of which is to entrench its grip on the state. That is what parties steeped in Marxism-Leninism always try to do.

Cyril Ramaphosa, as usual, is full of contradictions. On the one hand, he tries to limit corruption. On the other, his policy proposals, by extending the reach of the state, will provide new areas in which party cadres in the form of bureaucrats can enrich themselves by extracting bribes and/or swinging government contracts to themselves and their friends and relations.        

An intensified and widening fightback necessitates a change in the mindsets of many leaders in the private sector. Far too often the response to intrusive policy proposals is to say to the government "we agree with your objectives but think they can be achieved some other way". This is usually naive, because the real objectives are seldom the ones proclaimed from public platforms.

National health insurance is not about improving public health care. It is about augmenting the powers of the state. Land reform is not about "rekindling" black commercial farmers. It is about augmenting the powers of the state (and enabling politicians and bureaucrats to acquire farms without paying for them).

Hardly a day goes by without a business leader or a ratings agency calling for "greater momentum on structural reforms". The ANC under the presidency of Mr Ramaphosa is happy to oblige.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution to legalise the confiscation of private land and improvements thereon will be the most far-reaching structural reform contemplated since the ANC came to power. Private property ownership ranks alongside free speech and the rule of law among the foundations of a free society.

The proposed amendment will strike at both private property and the rule of law. The amendment not only envisages confiscation, but seeks also to curtail the jurisdiction of the courts in determining whether or not compensation should be paid. It further seeks to circumvent constitutionally guaranteed property rights by empowering Parliament to enact (by simple majority) subsequent laws expanding the circumstances in which expropriation without compensation may apply.

Moreover, it is already the policy of the ANC government that black beneficiaries of land reform will become not property owners but tenants of the state. "Land reform" involves redistribution not from white to black but from private owners to the government. When banks or agricultural organisations say they endorse land reform, they help to legitimate a fraudulent scheme, which is to nationalise land, just as minerals and water have already been nationalised.

While Mr Ramaphosa was talking on behalf of his party in its customary 8th January statement about socio-economic renewal, Blade Nzimande, secretary general of the South African Communist Party (SACP), said one of his party's objectives for the year was "to move the national democratic revolution, our national transformation and development programme, into a second, more radical phase" and "deepen the advance to socialism".

This is long-standing ANC policy as well, although the ANC is clever enough to tone down the rhetoric and concentrate on what really counts: legislation, regulation, and executive action.  

Although Mr Nzimande bewailed "radical looting", "factionalism", and something called "neo-liberalism", he actually has no reason to complain about the thrust of policy under Mr Ramaphosa's "long-game" presidency. Liberalising measures in the pipeline, such as less restrictive immigration laws, are heavily outweighed by the greater regulatory and confiscatory powers of the state that are also in the pipeline.

Medical professionals have begun speaking out against the government's damaging plans for health care. There is more opposition now from organised agriculture to land expropriation. Some mining leaders have become more vocal about threats to that industry. Dating back to the apartheid era, South Africa's sporting community has habitually complied with the ruling party's prevailing ideology. It is time for them to join the fightback against the present ruling party's ruinous policies. And the legal profession could usefully join the fightback against attempts to undermine the Constitution and the rule of law.      

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by clicking here or sending an SMS with your name to 32823. Each SMS costs R1. Ts and Cs apply.