Late on Tuesday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ANC would support amending the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation.
Early on Wednesday morning, people who had run alongside Cyril on the Sea Point promenade began to wonder whether they had been duped by this promise of a ‘new dawn’.
It wasn’t a Cabinet Reshuffle, which was basically Zuma’s panic/looting button, but it has still set tongues wagging right across the country.
There have been many pieces penned about the big announcement, but Judith February, writing for the Daily Maverick, has done well.
Let’s get stuck in:
The entire land “debate” has seemed like it has caught Ramaphosa on the wrong foot. It has had a disruptive interlocutor in the form of the EFF and the ANC has been playing catch-up to the EFF’s pre-election populism ever since.
One cannot be sure that Ramaphosa even supported the Nasrec resolution that included the space for expropriation without compensation…
Here’s the catch – Cyril has no wriggle room, and he needs the help of Julius and his cohorts:
With the slimmest of majorities he won at Nasrec and the balancing act within his own party was fully on display during the announcement on Tuesday night. Ramaphosa knows that picking a fight with his secretary-general Ace Magashule and others like him in the party will not make for good electoral politics.
For Ramaphosa to shore up his powers he will need a convincing electoral victory in 2019, after all. Part and parcel of the divided party he inherited is that he is in certain ways hamstrung by the rather more populist part of his party.
…the ANC will need a two thirds majority to amend the Constitution, according to s74. The ANC holding 249 seats will be short of that number but the EFF will no doubt come to its rescue.
Our president’s announcement on land wasn’t the only bombshell that dropped this week, with Stats SA releasing dire economic results. Ramaphosa called them “worrying”, but that’s something of an understatement:
Unemployment is up and 6.1 million (27.2%) working-aged South Africans are without work. This is not “worrying”, it is a national crisis that will take years to fix, if we ever can break the back of unemployment in South Africa.
The solutions too are ones for the long haul such as urgently fixing our education system, to name but one measure within government’s power. So while the land debate is urgent and important and we should not minimise the effect of this “original sin” on our society, what our country urgently needs is jobs. Because along with a job comes not only a means of living but the dignity to participate fully in society. Unfortunately, if past land reform is anything to go by, the poor and dispossessed will not be the beneficiaries of redistribution and this will not be a way out of poverty or joblessness.
Ramaphosa will need to show that the government he leads will do it differently – a tall order given the divided party he presides over and a national election which sits uncomfortably on the horizon. The long game will require that the centre holds while Ramaphosa negotiates the politics
Marianne Merten, also writing for the Daily Maverick, sums up the timing of his announcement up as follows:
If Ramaphosa had waited three days, until Friday, he could have done this address to the nation as president of South Africa, on completion of a Cabinet legkotla that is starting on Wednesday, right after the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) lekgotla.
But the choice was to do so after the ANC lekgotla in a six-minute 45-second pre-recorded message to the nation against the backdrop of two ANC flags, as the president of the governing ANC has shifted something in South African politics. And it shows that all’s up for grabs. This space needs to be watched, closely.
I’m sure it will be, and I’m sure Cyril’s promenade jogs will be greeted with a few sideways glances from South Africans talking about moving to Perth for the seventh year running.
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