Former finance minister Trevor Manuel, one of four investment envoys tasked with selling South Africa to potential international investors, said during a discussion at the Obama Foundation in Johannesburg on Wednesday that land was a “complex” and “unresolved matter”, Business Day reports.
Manuel, who served under presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, said explaining the ongoing land debate to potential investors had been tougher than expected.
The former finance minister stands alongside former Standard Bank CEO Jacko Maree, businesswoman Phumzile Langeni and former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas as those Ramaphosa has chosen to try to secure a target of $100 billion in investments over the next five years.
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According to Manuel, this task has been complicated by the fact that many of those he has approached have voiced concerns that the radical move towards land expropriation without compensation could harm property rights, the financial sector and food security.
The National Assembly gave the go-ahead for section 25 of the Constitution to be amended to give effect to government policy of expropriating land without compensation in February.
Parliament’s review committee is currently touring the country to find out whether the public agrees that the constitutional changes should go ahead.
According to Manuel, government needs to listen to these opinions as well as draw on expert advice within a “rational, orderly and inclusive” process. Addressing the issue would require “outside agency, such as the judiciary”.
“Communicating this [issue], I think, is a bigger challenge than what we thought,” Manuel said.
Following South Africa’s transition to democracy, section 25 was added to the Constitution to uphold property rights. In this process, Manuel said, leaders and lawmakers “also recognised within that clause that some of the properties that people had accumulated in SA were by means not fair”.
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“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 continued.
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 mentioned that while he acknowledged the public’s demand for farmland, “the bigger challenge in SA is actually urban land”, he said.
He said inadequate housing that led to informal settlements must be addressed.
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.”
Challenges aside, Ramaphosa’s investment drive has already secured $10 billion each from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as R850-million investment from the United Kingdom.