When you are up to the neck in a steaming heap of ordure, the person who throws you a line is automatically, at first impression, a saviour.
However, if the rescue rope is then secured with a slip knot around the very same neck, that assumption is quickly shattered.
Such is the situation we find ourselves in with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. One firstly should not underestimate the challenges that Ramaphosa faces, for it truly is a monumental pile of excrement that we are in.
The years under President Jacob Zuma have hollowed out the country, leaving just the husk. We are a nation that is economically crippled and morally skint. For the past decade the primary purpose of this government has not been the welfare of citizens, but the enrichment of criminal parasites.
Our eventual recovery and redemption will demand much more than just excising Zuma and his Gupta cronies from public life. Virtually every managerial level of the public service and of the many state-owned entities is overrun by corrupt and incompetent Zuma cadres.
The party itself has moved from being a political organisation trying to implement a coherent ideology. It is now little more than an employment agency and a distribution hub for
snaffled state assets. And since the fiscus is running low, the focus is inevitably switching to ways of accessing the wealth of the private sector. Talk of a “wealth tax” has revived and delegates to the December conference committed to amending the constitution to allow the seizure of agricultural land without compensation.
Ramaphosa promises that this will not be a “smash and grab” operation like that which impoverished Zimbabwe.
This week he told eNCA that South Africans had no need to be nervous.“Land is a complex issue and has to be handled very delicately, because there is quite a lot of emotion.
The real issue, though, is that most of the redistributed land is lying derelict at the moment.” It is true, as Ramaphosa says, that the failure of redistribution is an important issue.
So, too, is the fact that until now successful land claimants have had a choice between alternative land or cash, with most of them taking the money so, bizarrely, many successful land claimants remain landless. But the “real issue” is that seizing the property of another person without compensation is a fundamental negation of human rights.
A state that has licence to confiscate your neighbour’s property on the basis of race or ethnicity will soon enough progress to confiscating yours, despite sharing your race or ethnicity. And as the Institute of Race Relations points out, amending the property clause of the constitution affects all property, not just agricultural land.
Nor, for that matter, would there be anything to stop the state from seizing privately owned land in the towns and cities. Just watch the widespread indifference of the urban commentariat to the fate of farmers quickly change when their suburban homes become the targets.
It was in order to prevent a corrosively endless cycle of theft and retaliation that South Africans negotiated a constitution that has stood us in such good stead.
Ramaphosa was prominent in the establishment of that framework of rights and it would be tragic if he now became complicit in its erosion.