EFF POISED TO UP THE PARLIAMENTARY ANTE

This article appeared in the 14 May edition of Legalbrief Today, under Policy Watch

The EFF’s performance in South Africa’s recent general elections may not have been as spectacular as its leaders predicted, but 19 more seats in the National Assembly represents a 76% increase in the party’s ability to influence the parliamentary process. Apart from the role its ‘signature proposals’ may well have played in prompting an ANC policy shift in support of expropriation without compensation as an instrument for accelerating land reform (Daily Maverick), since 2014 – with just 25 seats – the EFF has also made a significant impact on debates in the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance.

It all began with EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu presenting his party’s position on transfer pricing as far back as May 2015, triggering a three-year process later involving the committees on trade and industry, mineral resources and police – and eventually focusing on the measures required to curb base erosion and profit shifting (Parliamentary Monitoring Group). Last year, by tabling an albeit superficial Banks Amendment Bill, Shivambu went on either
to spark or rekindle a debate on the merits of enabling state-owned entities to register as banks. As a result, although his piece of legislation was rejected, a Financial Matters Amendment Bill, among other things introducing the necessary provisions, is now awaiting presidential assent.

A South African Reserve Bank (SARB) Amendment Bill introduced in the National Assembly last August by EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema has yet to be considered. One of the proposed new statutes on which members of the incoming Standing Committee on Finance will cut their teeth, it, too, lacks substance from a technical drafting perspective. However, President Cyril Ramaphosa has already made it very clear that the ANC’s 2017 elective conference resolution to nationalise the SARB will be implemented (Fin24) – and, once again, the EFF has kick-started the process.

Hopefully, the new, numerically stronger cohort of red overall wearers in Parliament will desist from the kinds of activities for which the EFF became notorious during former President Jacob Zuma’s second term in office. As in the case with every other political party preparing to occupy seats in SA’s sixth democratic Parliament, the names of EFF representatives will feature in lists expected to be released by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng this week (SABC News). But it is the calibre of incoming MPs that counts, regardless of their ideological persuasion. Will they familiarise themselves with the issues? Will they read and scrutinise every document sent their way? Will they faithfully attend every meeting of the committees to which they are deployed? Will they enrich the quality of debate and new legislation? Will they deliver what is really in the country’s best interests?

HOW REALISTIC ARE THE PRESIDENT’S ELECTIONEERING PROMISES?

This article features extracts from one that appeared in the 2 May edition of Legalbrief Today, under Policy Watch

I often wonder what the late Eric Molobi, co-founder of Kagiso Trust Investments, would have thought of all the shenanigans associated with the ruling party. Having begun his political career with the Black Consciousness Movement, he changed allegiance after a spell on Robben Island – where he was apparently ‘re-educated’ at the knee of none other than former President the late Nelson Mandela. What would he have made of recent utterances by President Cyril Ramaphosa, whom he knew well?

Here’s what I wrote for Legalbrief Policy Watch:

‘We continue to work on the land issue. We continue to make sure that the resolution … passed at our conference in 2017 is implemented so that we return the land of our forebears to the people of our country. That, comrades, is going to happen without … fail.’ President Cyril Ramaphosa made this commitment during a Cosatu Workers’ Day rally in Durban on 1 May 2019 (IoL) – just seven days before South Africans go to the polls to elect the country’s sixth democratic administration. While, at the time of writing, the only video footage of the President’s remarks on land reform ended mid-sentence, he is reported to have linked them to the prospect of ever-increasing employment opportunities in the agricultural sector (News24).

Although the full text of the speech has yet to be made electronically available, according to media coverage Ramaphosa’s other pronouncements touched on economic transformation (so that ‘people can enjoy the bounties of the country’); the minimum wage (‘all companies must implement it without fail so workers can start moving away from poverty wages’); rape (‘I call upon men to offer respect to women of the country and offer them the honour they deserve’); gender parity in the workplace (members of the tripartite alliance are ‘in a position to push for equal pay, equal training and promotions for women’); and passenger rail transport (‘we want you to go to work with ease’). Meanwhile, government is busy ‘cleaning up’ at Eskom, which is ‘in repair mode’. Those ‘accountable’ will apparently ‘have to face the music’.

In the context of recent announcements on the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform website, Ramaphosa’s remarks point to the distinct possibility of yet more unfulfilled expectations on the part of ordinary South Africans. Here’s what I wrote in Legalbrief Policy Watch just a few days before they were made:

Since January, news items on the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform website have regularly featured two issues of considerable significance in the context of land restitution: farming equipment handed to rural communities and fraudulent land claims. While smallholder farmers have this month alone received implements and other ‘production support’ worth ‘millions of rand’, during the same period the department was obliged to allay concerns about illegal developments on state-owned land in Polokwane. There was an ‘unfortunate incident’ in the same area during February, when false reports of claims on land in Centurion also surfaced. While it is not clear what, if any, action has since been taken, expectations have been raised that may well be unrealistic. Can they be managed?

Given the poor state of most farms returned to the descendants of their pre-colonial occupants, perhaps media statements on equipment and support provided to emerging black farmers should focus less on rand value and more on effective use, maintenance and potential returns. Since his post-ANC national executive committee speech last July announcing a dramatic policy shift on land expropriation, President Cyril Ramaphosa has repeatedly assured South Africans and the international community that escalated land reform will not impact negatively on food security. Yet reports on recent ‘hand-overs’ are worryingly superficial. Last Friday, when a ‘production support unit’ was launched in the Harrismith area as part of a ‘stimulus package’ apparently valued at ‘over R50m’, one beneficiary observed that the new machinery will make it ‘easy to farm’ and feed his family. Hopefully, it will accomplish a great deal more than that.