The DA’s John Steenhuisen had perhaps the most telling observation to make in the wake of the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the ANC had decided it would make “expropriation without compensation” into law.
In a tweet, Steenhuisen described Ramaphosa’s late-night address to the nation as “government by announcement”.
And, quite correctly, he pointed to what turns out to be a sham process of consultation – via the highly publicised meetings around the country at which members of the public gave their inputs.
In a manner eerily reminiscent of the “consultation” process over e-tolls, the ANC has gone ahead with something it had clearly decided on long before the request for public submissions took place.
Clearly, the ANC is hoping that parliament – and no doubt the courts, because legal actions will surely follow – will rubber-stamp its policy decision.
We are not denying that land restitution is an issue that needs to be addressed – but it should be done responsibly.
Given the ANC’s track record in failing to run South Africa’s health and education systems, the police service and state-owned enterprises, we can be excused for not being hopeful about whether land redistribution will be implemented efficiently, or fairly.
So, while expropriation without compensation may be a great vote-grabbing technique, someone, eventually, will have to deal with the realities of making it work. If it is done poorly, the masses, who have been promised much and given little, will be even angrier and possibly even violent.
At the same time, an expropriation programme could deal major blows to the economy through dispossession of productive land owners and by sending a message to investors, local and foreign, that their investments will not be safe.
Mr President, beware. We cannot go the way of Zimbabwe. We don’t have any other place to go.