South Africa’s friends in the world want the country to succeed, but the drive to implement Expropriation without Compensation (EWC) risks undermining the considerable benefits of global goodwill, and the investment that goes with it.
This emerges from the reactions of influential figures in policy-making and investment circles in Berlin and Washington over the past week in the course of engagements by Institute of Race Relations (IRR) chief executive, Frans Cronje, in Washington DC, and IRR project manager Terence Corrigan, in Berlin.
Cronje and Corrigan’s visits abroad form part of the IRR’s initiative to build national and international support for protecting and extending the property rights of all South Africans, and highlighting the risks posed by the government’s commitment to a policy of Expropriation without Compensation (EWC).
Corrigan, who goes on to Brussels and London next week, commented: "It has become apparent in Berlin that many influential people feel enormous goodwill towards the South Africa."
"They want to see the country succeed and would like to offer such help as they can. Without exception, they support measures to promote growth and inclusion. But they are also well aware of the ongoing problems confronting the country, and the risks that poorly thought-out policy ideas pose.
"And the risk is that the drive for EWC could well prevent us from capitalising on the very real benefits that could flow from this relationship."
From Washington DC, Cronje observed that "one of the problems that the South African government faces is that few foreign actors will deal with it frankly regarding domestic policy decisions and their implications".
He added: "EWC is a case in point. Many groups we have briefed these past two weeks in the United States say that while they are sensitive to historical land injustices, the manner in which the South African government has gone about positioning itself on expropriation has made it very difficult to justify fixed investment commitments to South Africa at this time.
"The consequence is that South Africa will not attract the foreign investment it needs to stage an economic recovery."
Cronje believed the government’s immediate priority should be to "swiftly make clear its position on property rights", as the message broadcast so far that "EWC will be done in a manner that does harm the economy has clearly failed".
"Platitudes will be insufficient to overcome current investor scepticism."
The next priority was for South Africa to seek to establish a more effective "diplomatic backchannel" to "improve the flow of information into the US".
In addition, business and investment communities "should do more to promote understanding both in America and South Africa of how important the strategic relationship between the two countries is".
A great deal was to be gained "by strengthening ties and exploiting that mutual goodwill".
* Michael Morris is the head of media at the IRR.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.