SA needs ‘a point of finality on land’ before investment conference

Ebrahim Patel. (GCIS)
Ebrahim Patel. (GCIS)

Policy uncertainty over the key question of land reform will be the big elephant in the room as President Cyril Ramaphosa goes on a massive charm offensive.

In a media briefing ahead of next week’s Investment Conference, Minister for Economic Development Ebrahim Patel admitted that government will have to speak with great coherence on policy uncertainty which has deterred investors from providing South Africa with much-needed financial backing.

“The president will no doubt want to deal with this matter next week to share with investors our storyline and our timeframes, what we expect will be the processes that will happen here. We are a democracy, Parliament is seized on the matter,” Patel said responding to a question on the land debate.

“The sooner we get to the point of finality on how we resolve the issue of land reform in giving black South Africans a deeper and more meaningful stake in the economy, the better it is for investors and also for South Africans themselves, for young people who must make decisions on their future … and for women in rural areas who are scrabbling a living, we see an opportunity to bring them into productive agriculture. So it is not something that we would want to shy away from, it is something we want to openly and frankly share with the investor community. And get their support because we can only do everything we want to do through a combination of legislative measures but also partnerships.”

Parliament is awaiting the reintroduction to the expropriation bill which will include an addition that is being authored by the department of public works. This addition will address the conditions under which expropriation without compensation might take place.

On the lack of confidence in state-owned enterprises hindering investment in the ailing institutions, Patel said that the government was working to fix challenges that went beyond funding. This included issues of leadership at some of these institutions and other challenges, citing Prasa and Eskom as two of the state-owned enterprises in need of interventions.

The conference, which will host around 1000 delegates from both South Africa and abroad, will kick off on October 25, just a day after newly minted Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers the medium term budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday. It is expected that the speech will give greater clarity on key questions on things like the funding of government’s recently announced stimulus package.

Patel was joined in this morning’s briefing by Ramaphosa’s economic advisor Trudi Makhaya, who said that a great deal of work had been done in the run-up to the conference.

Read: Trudi Makhaya - R150bn is on the way

“The conference has forced us to work together to iron out some of the inter-agency and inter-departmental conversations that need to be had. It has forced to think carefully on how we, for instance, develop a project pipeline. To be honest it is very difficult but in the exercise of doing that we now understand how to communicate different kinds of ideas, we now know for example that this is the kind of additional work that needs to be done in terms of due diligence, this is how we can bring in private sector expertise to help us with some of the issues. Those lessons will set us up to have a post-conference reflection that will include strategy around the key institutions,” Makhaya said.

Ramaphosa will also inviting the high-powered delegation to join him on one of his trademark early morning walks on Vilakazi Street in Soweto with the view of showcasing one of the country’s tourism hotspots.

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