The Steenhuisen manifesto: 'Efficient and just land reform process' to top agenda

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen at the launch of his campaign to become the party's federal leader, last week in Cape Town. (Jan Gerber, News24)
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen at the launch of his campaign to become the party's federal leader, last week in Cape Town. (Jan Gerber, News24)

There must be justice for those who lost their land during apartheid, and if elected federal DA leader, an "efficient and just land reform process" will be John Steenhuisen's top priority.

This according to the campaign manifesto DA interim leader Steenhuisen hopes will see him elected as the party's federal leader come May. Also in the race is Mbali Ntuli and John Moodey.

Taking a cue from Bill Clinton's famous maxim of "the economy, stupid", Steenhuisen's manifesto has a strong focus on the economy.

"The only way to fix South Africa is to get our economy growing so that we can create the millions of jobs we need to lift people out of poverty," reads the manifesto, which was launched in Johannesburg on Saturday evening.

The manifesto notes that the number of unemployed South Africans has grown from 3.6 million in 1994 to over 10 million currently.

"Our most intractable social problems, including poverty and inequality, result largely from our abnormally high unemployment rate," reads the manifesto.

"We need to connect with South Africans who have been left out of the economy. We need to offer them an alternative economic policy that will radically improve their economic prospects."

Steenhuisen's plans to kick start the economy include the following:

  • An efficient tax system: "I want to free the citizens of this country from an oppressive tax regime that saps incentive and kills innovation. Instead of using taxation to punish citizens, we must use it as a means to incentivise innovation and investment. So, for our economy to grow and create jobs, we need to offer firms and citizens some tax relief. And we need to ensure that our tax money is spent on the things that people need to help lift them out of poverty."
  • Turn State-Owned Enterprises into Publicly-Owned Enterprises: "[W]e will sell many of the remaining assets owned by zombie state-owned enterprises, privatize those that can be saved, and put the rest out of their misery. In the case of the few state-owned enterprises that are not privatized, we will make shares available to the public."
  • Change labour laws to preserve and create jobs: "We will unleash growth, productivity and competition to spur higher wages by making it easier to employ talented workers and dismiss underperforming ones." Further labour plans are enforcing secret ballots on planned industrial action, reformed collective bargaining rules and allowing different economic sectors to set their own minimum wages based on their specific trading conditions.
  • Slash unnecessary regulation: "We will review all burdensome red tape requirements on businesses to make it simple to start a business, comply with tax administration, obtain licences and permits, and register property transfers."
  • Upgrade and integrate public transport: "We need to tackle spatial inequality and empower the poorest citizens to access economic opportunities. We will do this by launching the biggest public-private investment partnership in South African history to expand, upgrade and integrate bus, rail and taxi networks across the country."
  • Urgently address our country’s water crisis: "To overcome this looming disaster, we will do away with water boards and create an independent water regulatory authority."

A further policy position for economic growth is redress – a topic often the cause of much controversy inside the DA, and a favourite stick to hit the party with by its critics.

"Our country's future depends on urgently fostering economic inclusion for the millions of people who remain locked out of the economy due to historical injustices committed on the basis of race. We cannot go forward as a nation if we do not deal decisively with this legacy of racial inequality," reads Steenhuisen's manifesto.

It says the current empowerment framework is not helping poor South Africans.

"By fixating on race, government's Black Economic Empowerment policy ensures that the same politically-connected people benefit over and over again, while the poor remain locked out of opportunities."

"To do this, we will produce a means-tested empowerment model that empowers beneficiaries on the same basis that the government already uses in selecting beneficiaries for SASSA grants, NSFAS funding, public housing, and old-age pensions."

"Selecting beneficiaries on the basis of their financial means will disqualify the small group of wealthy elites who repeatedly benefit at the expense of 30 million impoverished citizens. Each and every one of the beneficiaries of means-tested empowerment would, in fact, be poor; living below the poverty line of R991 per person per month."

According to the manifesto, Steenhuisen's empowerment plan will diminish the risk of corruption, reduce the cost of doing business, and lessen the cumbersome bureaucracy of complying with a complex BEE scorecard for businesses.

"This will have a positive impact on growth and job creation."

The manifesto states that an "efficient and just land reform process" is needed to redress the legacy of apartheid.

"If elected DA Leader, I will put this top of my policy agenda," reads the manifesto.

"We all know that expropriation without compensation is not the answer. When you create uncertainty about property rights, you chase away investment and you kill growth and jobs.

"Instead, we need to open up the agricultural land market to land reform beneficiaries through subsidies and tax breaks.

"We need to issue title deeds to land reform beneficiaries who are currently only allowed to lease land from the state. And we need to move away from communal ownership towards individual ownership.

"There must be justice for those who lost their land, and were ejected from their property by the apartheid government.

"It is wrong that hundreds of thousands of victims have passed on without getting their land back. We must fast track restitution in a way that is fair, just and equitable."

The manifesto also has an extensive plan to "free South Africans from Eskom", as well as proposals to fix education and supporting the DA's alternative to the government's National Health Insurance (NHI).

Furthermore, the manifesto also deals with crime, including gender-based violence, and a "public service that works for all".

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