A better way to reach for the promised land

04 March 2018 - 00:00 By peter bruce

There's a quote that does the rounds that is both fake and somehow profound. The last version I saw was attributed to Ken Peters, a professor of economics in the Czech Republic. He probably doesn't exist.
"The danger to South Africa is not Jacob Zuma, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the presidency," says "Ken". "It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of a Zuma presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president."
That speaks to me. We all caused Zuma, directly and indirectly. And we are all fools, as the debate on land reform, just out of the blocks, is beginning to show.Over at the EFF, its leader, Julius Malema, insists that not only will white people lose their land, but all black people too. He wants to nationalise all the land and told a TV interviewer last week that "every title deed will be meaningless and the state will be the custodian of the land. The government will then outline what use the land will be for."
I reckon that position is going to cost the EFF dearly next year, especially in Gauteng, where black homeownership has soared. South Africans are a fundamentally conservative people.
I've met a lot of men and women who struggled against apartheid and I never tire of hearing their stories and my admiration for all of them is boundless. None of them fought to be able to live on state-owned land, though. They were fighting for their right to have a stake in the future of our country - not to have someone hold the stake on their behalf.
A stakeholder economy, a stakeholder democracy, a stakeholder market is where we need to be. That's where prosperity and peace lie waiting if we can only get past Ken Peters. There's no reason to be afraid of expropriation without compensation because it will have to survive the Constitutional Court. And to do that it is going to have to respect the Bill of Rights.
Land will and should be returned to black people somehow, but in a far more civilised way than it was taken from them.Of course, the biggest threat to land reform is the useless people the ANC has running the processes. Left to the ANC, even expropriation without compensation would quickly block with corruption and special interests.
Which is where the private sector, surely, has a massive opportunity, and with it the country.
There are 35,000 commercial farms in South Africa . If you gave each one to a black farmer that would be still leave 20,000,000 black people out. If you split all the farms in half, that'd be 70,000 new farmers, and just 19,965,000 black people left out. OK, split all the farms into 100 new pieces each, and then you only have 16,500,000 black people left out.
But only a tiny fraction of our population wants to farm. Most people want decent, affordable homes close to the jobs they might have or want. There is stacks of land around the Vaal Triangle, lots around Cape Town and Durban and Port Elizabeth and East London. This is where industry and jobs are.
This is where a massive building boom, project-managed by people who know what they're doing, promises what land reform can do. Most of the land is owned by the state. Lots by churches. Some by whites and some by blacks.
Whatever. Let's copy the Chinese and build, say, three new cities near the metros that matter over the next 10 years. Hurry hurry. Cities with railway stations, post offices, police stations, shopping malls, affordable and desirable apartments and homes. Decently built schools and hospitals. With wide open spaces and parks.
Let's wipe shanty towns off the face of the Earth and, in the process, create the gargantuan economic growth and prosperity we dream about. There's infrastructure to be created, homes to be built. And into those homes flows a stream of TV sets, stoves, fridges and new technology. It should be a private-sector heaven.And once we have a Department of Home Affairs that recognises skills can only be passed person to person and dramatically relaxes its immigration rules, and economic policy that makes it irresistible for foreign and local manufacturers to come and make those TVs, fridges and stoves here in South Africa, then 6% GDP growth a year becomes unambitious.
But you can't help create our own massive boom if you're already hysterical about whether or not you might lose your land. You have to have a little faith and fight for good policy and for social justice. We can't go on as we are. I am going to trust the constitution.

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