News / Opinion / Columns

Martin Williams
3 minute read
8 Aug 2018
8:30 am

The truth is Expropriator Cyril may be who he really is

Martin Williams

Many commentators view Ramaphosa as not really being keen on expropriating land from white people. They may have that wrong.

South African President Cyril Ramaphos. GCIS

Why did President Cyril Ramaphosa make a financially reckless late-night announcement about expropriation of land without compensation?

Is he really scared of the EFF’s Julius Malema? Was he trying to neutralise the red berets by adopting their policy?

In this view, expropriation without compensation (EWC) is a populist vote-catcher, which must be copied and “owned” by the ANC.

Perhaps Ramaphosa was swayed by research company Ipsos’ poll last month, which said the EFF would grow to more than 7% in the 2019 elections.

Yet there have been queries about the quality and methodology of Ipsos predictions. Actual results from by-elections tell a different story.

While the EFF have shown some growth in the North West province, they are static in Gauteng, which was their biggest support base in the 2014 elections. Based on by-elections, there is no evidence of an upsurge in support for the EFF.

Justice Malala said on BusinessLive’s website on Monday: “The parliamentary review committee’s hearings have been like EFF rallies. The ANC is well aware that it is on the back foot.”

Maybe, maybe not. Let’s see if the next batch of by-election results shows any significant shift from the 6.35% achieved in the 2014 national and provincial elections.

Local government election results are not comparable to national and provincial. In the 2016 municipal ballot, the EFF achieved 8.31%, which they are unlikely to emulate in 2019.

I think the EFF enjoys elevated status in the media because they know how to make headlines, not because they have a massive support base. In proportion to their size, the EFF is vastly over-represented on social media, where they distort the outcomes of Twitter polls.

Different truths emerge in the secure privacy of election booths.

Another theory put forward is that Ramaphosa struck a deal with the EFF, where the fighters want to cut the throat of whiteness by removing Athol Trollip as mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

This is not an impossibility, but it is by no means certain that the ANC and EFF can and will act in concert to remove Trollip. Second, would Ramaphosa, who guided the Constitution-making process, undo his good work and force through a damaging populist amendment merely to secure that metro? Probably not.

It is also argued that Ramaphosa has been forced into a corner by more radical and corrupt elements in the ANC, and that he lacks the courage and political space to be true to his preferred policies.

What if all these theories are wrong, or at best only partially right?

What if Ramaphosa is and always has been radical about land? John Kane-Berman, writing on Politicsweb, says Ramaphosa has often shown commitment to a “national democratic revolution. Secondly … Ramaphosa has himself helped to fuel demands for expropriation without compensation”.

Kane-Berman says Ramaphosa has described the Land Acts as “the original colonial sin” of “violent dispossession”. For Ramaphosa, EWC does not count as “taking land from people” since it is “merely restoring land to its original owners”.

So perhaps Ramaphosa is not so investor friendly after all. And he was not acting out of character. Expropriator Cyril may be the real deal.

Martin Williams, DA councillor.

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