Manuel: land is­sue not an easy sell

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Nick Hedley Se­nior Busi­ness Writer

Trevor Manuel, the for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter and one of four in­vest­ment en­voys ap­pointed by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa to sell SA to in­vestors, said on Wed­nes­day that ex­plain­ing SA’s on­go­ing land de­bate had been tougher than ex­pected.

In Fe­bru­ary, the ANC part­nered with the EFF in Par­lia­ment to vote through a mo­tion to ex­pro­pri­ate land with­out com­pen­sa­tion, caus­ing the rand to weaken and in­ten­si­fy­ing in­vestor fear.

Ramaphosa has given the en­voys — Manuel; for­mer Stan­dard Bank CEO Jacko Ma­ree; busi­ness­woman Phumzile Lan­geni; and for­mer deputy min­is­ter of fi­nance Mce­bisi Jonas — and his eco­nomic ad­viser, Trudi Makhaya, a tar­get of $100bn in in­vest­ments over the next five years.

But many within his tar­get mar­ket were con­cerned that the rad­i­cal move on land could harm prop­erty rights, the fi­nan­cial sec­tor and food

se­cu­rity. Par­lia­ment’s re­view com­mit­tee is criss­cross­ing the coun­try hold­ing pub­lic hear­ings on whether sec­tion 25 of the Con­sti­tu­tion – which deals with prop­erty rights – should be changed.

“Com­mu­ni­cat­ing this [is­sue], I think, is a big­ger chal­lenge than what we thought,” said Manuel, who served as fi­nance min­is­ter un­der pres­i­dents Nel­son Man­dela, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Mot­lanthe.

He said at a dis­cus­sion held by the Obama Foun­da­tion in Jo­han­nes­burg on Wed­nes­day that land was a “com­plex” and “un­re­solved mat­ter”.

Sec­tion 25 was added to the Con­sti­tu­tion at the dawn of democ­racy to up­hold prop­erty rights, Manuel said, “and we also recog­nised within that clause that some of the prop­er­ties that peo­ple had ac­cu­mu­lated in SA were by means not fair”.

“The Con­sti­tu­tion re­quired us to draft a piece of leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate an in­stru­ment that would al­low for ju­di­cial over­sight, [but] we failed to ac­tu­ally pro­duce the leg­is­la­tion re­quired by the Con­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

Sub­sec­tion 6 of sec­tion 25, which “Par­lia­ment must en­act” ac­cord­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion, says: “A per­son or com­mu­nity whose ten­ure of land is legally in­se­cure as a re­sult of past racially dis­crim­i­na­tory laws or prac­tices is en­ti­tled, to the ex­tent pro­vided by an act of Par­lia­ment, ei­ther to ten­ure, which is legally se­cure, or to com­pa­ra­ble re­dress.”

Manuel said the gov­ern­ment had recog­nised that agri­cul­tural land was im­por­tant for food se­cu­rity and in­come gen­er­a­tion, though there was now pent-up de­mand for farm­land.

“But the big­ger chal­lenge in SA is ac­tu­ally ur­ban land,” he said, re­fer­ring to the sprawl­ing in­for­mal set­tle­ments that sur­round the coun­try’s cities.

Manuel also said sec­tion 26 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which re­quires the state to pro­vide ac­cess to ad­e­quate hous­ing, “hasn’t been dealt with. And so in the process of in­ward mi­gra­tion and ur­ban­i­sa­tion, peo­ple ba­si­cally just set up where they can and many of the bat­tles are ac­tu­ally about ur­ban land.”

Gov­ern­ment needed to take heed of the opin­ions aired at pub­lic hear­ings and then draw on ex­pert ad­vice within a “ra­tio­nal, or­derly and in­clu­sive” process. Ad­dress­ing the is­sue would re­quire “out­side agency, such as the ju­di­ciary”.

De­spite these un­cer­tain­ties, Ramaphosa’s in­vest­ment drive has al­ready borne fruit. Dur­ing his visit to the Mid­dle East and Nigeria in July, the United Arab Emi­rates and Saudi Ara­bia pledged $10bn each to his cause.

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