Like many others, the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry submitted to Government, months ago, detailed objections to any changes to the Constitution that would undermine private property rights.
Then, just before the festive season, the public was asked to comment on specific legislation suggested by a parliamentary sub-committee. The deadline was January 31st – a period when half the country was on holiday.
It was a deadline not easily met, to put it mildly, but as the 216-year-old Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry we felt compelled to re-submit our original objections (which clearly had not been taken into account) and then we added another 15 reasons why messing with private property it is a very bad idea.
We need hardly have bothered. Two things made a mockery of this entire public consultation process.
Firstly, at the last minute, the deadline for submissions was extended to the end of February, and secondly the Government announced it would make itself the court of last resort on any decision to expropriate without compensation – a flat contradiction of what the draft Bill suggested.
So much for Parliament, for open democracy, stakeholder participation, and so much for plain common sense, history and reason itself.
So to be perfectly plain, the changes now proposed are outrageous on many levels. They are a betrayal of the peaceful resolution of internal conflict between citizen groups achieved at great cost and difficult compromise, all enshrined in our Constitution.
By this betrayal, the Government will now be widely known (by those who matter in the world) that South Africa intends to join those countries that have embraced failed economic theories and made themselves destitute by doing so.
Whatever verbal somersaults are used to justify these actions will not fool the outside world.
A strong backlash can be expected should Government go ahead with blasting holes in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Whether the reaction comes from within the country or from outside in the form of an investment boycott is the only question left.
The right of a majority government, by one simple vote, to expropriate private property without compensation is draconian. It will be seen as a cynical fig leaf attempting to cover blatant theft driven by ideology rather than real need.
This is bad law, driven by emotion not rationality. It ignores economic reality. It is based on political and propagandistic misperceptions of reality, just as did that cornerstone of apartheid, the Group Areas Act.
It will have the same tragic consequences.
The Government is ignoring clear evidence that the majority of those demanding land do not desire to farm and even less keen to be farm labourers. Rather their overwhelming desire is to escape from rural poverty and to own a home in the cities.
Deputy President of the Cape Chamber