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South African Government Ramping Up Efforts To Get More Land Into Black Ownership

SOUTH AFRICA (npr.org) – Nearly a quarter century after the end of apartheid, whites still own most of the land in the country, and a new political party thinks it should be appropriated without compensation.

The government of South Africa is ramping up efforts to get more land into black ownership. A controversial plan under consideration would seize property from owners without paying them and redistribute it. Land reform has been a key issue since the end of white minority rule 24 years ago, but blacks still largely don’t hold land. Peter Granitz reports from Pretoria.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Twenty-five-year-old John Ratema is a college graduate armed with an education in finance, but he’s unemployed. Joblessness in South Africa is high, and he’s had no luck finding anything in his field. So now he says he’s contemplating a future in farming.

JOHN RATEMA: Because I grew up in a place where we used to do gardens and so for – to – for living. The spinach, tomatoes – and tried just to sell them.

GRANITZ: The catch – he doesn’t own any land. The garden plot of his youth was in far northern South Africa. He moved here to central Pretoria for school and stayed hoping to find work. On this Sunday morning, Ratema is registering to vote. He supports the left-wing political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, because of its calls to expropriate land without compensation.

RATEMA: We just want the land that is owned by the white people to give it back to the government.

GRANITZ: A government audit shows whites own 72 percent of South Africa’s land and black South Africans, who make up 80 percent of the population, own just 4 percent. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the government has tried various land reform policies, including a willing seller, willing buyer program. Critics of that system say the government has been too willing to buy land at inflated prices, and that the government is hoarding the land instead of transferring it to would-be farmers. President Cyril Ramaphosa says a quarter century into democracy, it’s time to address the country’s original sin.

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PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: We should not be too angry, too scared, too anxious to get into this debate.

GRANITZ: Ramaphosa has promised the expropriation of land without compensation will not be what he calls a smash and grab. Political analyst Sithembile Mbete says Ramaphosa and his African National Congress are pursuing expropriation now because of political necessity.

SITHEMBILE MBETE: They finally are facing an electoral challenger that has put it on the agenda.

GRANITZ: The Economic Freedom Fighters. The ANC’s popularity is sinking after more than 20 years in power, and the party risks losing its outright majority in next year’s elections. Mbete says it’s adopting a populist bent to maintain power. It’s a risky bet and one that could pay out at the polls.

MBETE: Part of what the disposition of land was by successive colonial regimes and then by the apartheid regime was about destroying the humanity and the personhood of black South Africans so that when people say they want land, part of it is also about wanting ancestral belonging and dignity.

GRANITZ: Here at Louis Meintjes’ farm north of Pretoria, women transplant seedlings into four and six-packs of vegetables that will eventually be sold at local stores for people to plant at home. The women, eight full-time employees, work in shade huts on Meintjes’ 103 acres. He says if the government takes his land, they’ll be out of work.

LOUIS MEINTJES: If they come with us, they can say, I’m going to take your land and you’re off. And I lose this. I’m 65 years old. My wife is 60 now. So we’d – I lose everything

GRANITZ: Meintjes bought the farm 37 years ago at the height of the apartheid era. And he says he’s never been this nervous about losing his property even as the country transitioned to democracy. If the government wants to reallocate land, he says, it should start with the land it owns and give the new landowners title deeds.

MEINTJES: We need to give everybody a chance. But I did not steal my land. I’ve got a legal title deed. And that’s the issue.

GRANITZ: Economist Wandile Sihlobo says agriculture is key to South Africa’s economy and stability. The country is the most food secure on the continent.

WANDILE SIHLOBO: They say they want to expropriate land without compensation given that that doesn’t destabilize the food production as well as the economy. But it’s almost impossible to do that.

GRANITZ: South Africa has a cautionary tale in its northern neighbor. Nearly two decades ago, Zimbabwe seized land without compensation. What followed was economic disaster and food shortages. In South Africa, no land has been taken yet. Parliament has agreed the issue must be addressed. It will report back in August how to proceed. Until then, farmers continue to work amid the uncertainty. For NPR News, I’m Peter Granitz in Pretoria.

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South Africa: Ramaphosa leaves Commonwealth summit to deal with protests

SOUTH AFRICA (REUTERS) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has cut short his attendance at the Commonwealth summit in London to deal with violent protests at home.

Clashes have taken place in North West province where protesters are demanding jobs, housing and an end to corruption.

Shops have been looted, roads barricaded and vehicles set alight.

President Ramaphosa, who took office in February, has sought to encourage investment in South Africa during his visit to the UK.

Protests in South Africa’s North West province erupted on Wednesday as demonstrators demanded the resignation of provincial Premier Supra Mahumapelo – a member of Mr Ramaphosa’s governing African National Congress (ANC).
Mr Ramaphosa is scheduled to hold meetings with ANC leaders in the provincial capital Mahikeng on Friday, his office said.

“To pay attention to the situation in the North West, the president has decided to cut short his participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London where he is leading a government delegation,” a statement said.

Mahikeng has been at the centre of the latest disturbances – dubbed “service delivery protests” – and streets were reported to be deserted on Thursday after bouts of looting and clashes with police.

Mr Ramaphosa has called for calm and ordered police to exercise restraint.

South African media said officers used tear gas to disperse protesters who had set light to a bus, stoned vehicles and blocked roads with burning tyres.

Nine people have been arrested since Wednesday, South Africa’s Timeslive reported citing police spokesperson Adele Myburgh.

The situation in South Africa’s North West province is the worst unrest since Mr Ramaphosa took office in February.

Protesters are demanding jobs and housing as well as an end to corruption.

Mathole Motshekga, a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee, told the BBC that the protests were a “rude awakening” for the party’s leadership.

“They want President Ramaphosa to lead a clean government. He has inherited people they suspect of being corrupt,” Mr Motshekga said.

He added that the ANC’s leadership needs “to deal with the people that are reasonably suspected to be corrupt within the ranks of the organisation.”

Mr Mahumapelo’s office has denounced the protests as an attempt to discredit him.

“[It is] an anti-Supra Mahumapelo political campaign which seeks to intimidate residents of Mahikeng‚” spokesman Brian Setswambung said, according to Timeslive.

Neighbouring Botswana said it had closed exit points along its shared border with North West province.

South Africa’s faltering economy has been a priority for Mr Ramaphosa since he took over from former President Jacob Zuma.

Growth had been weak and unemployment painfully high as Mr Zuma’s leadership was dogged by years of corruption allegations.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg in London, Mr Ramaphosa said he was seeking $100bn (£71bn) in investment to help kick-start the economy.

He said his government was determined to tackle corruption.

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South Africa’s new president is lifting investor sentiment: Central bank chief

SOUTH AFRICA (cnbc.com) – Momentum in South Africa’s economy has followed political change ‘There is positive investor sentiment in South Africa’: SARB Governor
South Africa’s investor appeal is experiencing a robust recovery under the two-month old government of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the country’s Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago said on Thursday.

Since Ramaphosa took power, both business and consumer confidence have improved, Kganyago told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.

The positive momentum is also reflected in financial markets. “We saw bond yields decline, the currency strengthen so there is positive investor sentiment in South Africa and that, of course, lays a basis for a cyclical recovery,” Kganyago said.

Ramaphosa, the successor to embattled former leader Jacob Zuma, is widely regarded as a pro-business politician committed to fighting graft and boosting foreign investment. Once a top performing emerging market, the economy took a hit under Zuma, who was criticized for heavy government interference in business affairs.

Also encouraging was the government’s tabling of a budget, which is setting a path for fiscal consolidation, and the fact that Moody’s revised its credit outlook to stable from negative last month, Kganyago continued.

Ramaphosa this week announced a drive to attract more than $100 billion in foreign investments — a target that Kganyago called “aspirational.”

While the country has been enjoying steady portfolio investment, foreign direct investment will take longer, the central bank head said, adding that once a suitable domestic environment is created, Ramaphosa’s goal will be achievable.

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Give land to South Africa’s landless

SOUTH AFRICA (ft.com) – Cyril Ramaphosa has called it the “original sin”. South Africa’s new president has pledged to correct “the violent dispossession of our people’s land”. That dispossession reached its height in 1913 when the Native Land Act set aside a miserable 7 per cent of terrain for four-fifths of the population. That segregationist act merely formalised a de facto policy that had gradually dispossessed black farmers, turning them into a rootless proletariat forced to work as cheap labour in gold and diamond mines. If all property is theft, the larceny in South Africa has been colour-coded for everyone to see.

Talk of land reform is back on the agenda in South Africa. In February, a matter of days into Mr Ramaphosa’s presidency, the African National Congress launched a review of the constitution that would allow more explicitly for expropriation of land without compensation. In doing so, it has buckled to pressure from the breakaway and radical Economic Freedom Fighters. It has also raised fears that South Africa could now go the way of Zimbabwe: driving whites off the land, spooking investors, wrecking the economy and endangering the country’s self-sufficiency in food.

Those fears are overdone. South Africa, for all its structural problems and festering injustice, is far from being a Zimbabwe. For one thing, it is Africa’s most urban society, with at least two-thirds of the population living in cities. For another, it has strong institutions that have weathered an assault by Jacob Zuma, the former president. Under Mr Ramaphosa, it is now in the hands of an arch constitutionalist.

The post-apartheid constitution already allows for land expropriation. Clause 25 permits property to be expropriated “for a public purpose or in the public interest”, a definition that could easily mean righting the wrongs of South Africa under white minority rule.

In practice, the ANC has hardly used the clause at its disposal. Far from doing too much land reform, it has done too little. Twenty-four years after the end of apartheid, there are still no clear records of who owns land, but even Agri SA, an industry group more optimistic than most about post-1994 transformation, estimates that 73.3 per cent of land is owned by whites, who make up just 8.4 per cent of the population.

Land reform is not only morally justified, it is socially and economically necessary

Ruth Hall, a professor at the University of the Western Cape, argues that, by contrast to the excellent property rights enjoyed under the ANC by whites, blacks have been less fortunate. The government routinely pushes people out of informal settlements and about 2m tenant farmers have been displaced.

“Expropriation of land rights without compensation is happening on an ongoing basis,” she says. “But it is poor and black people whose rights are being expropriated.”

Land reform is not only morally justified, it is socially and economically necessary. In per capita terms, Mr Zuma’s tenure constituted a near lost decade. Asian-style double-digit growth looks all but impossible, even under decent management. That leaves redistribution as one way of addressing entrenched imbalances resulting from an apartheid system that deliberately impoverished the black majority.

All over Africa — and in other parts of the developing world — land is not being put to work owing to the fact that it is not owned by those who occupy it. Rundassa Eshete, an Ethiopian critic of the government in Addis Ababa, calls it “dead capital”.

Farmers are not incentivised to work land they do not own. Nor can they use it as collateral to borrow. Much of China’s economic miracle came about by spiriting private property out of the “dead capital” of collectivised farms. Parcelling up land to smallholders was, as Joseph Studwell has written in How Asia Works, the foundation of economic take-off in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Urban South Africa cannot repeat exactly the same trick. Not many blacks living in cities want to farm. That does not make land reform impossible. Many black South Africans live in peri-urban informal settlements to which they have no title. Some occupy city centre buildings long abandoned by landlords. In the countryside, many black farmers live a precarious existence on land owned by others, in many cases traditional leaders. The priority should be to formalise such arrangements. Giving title deeds or other official claims to those now landless would have a potent symbolic, as well as economic, impact.

Sensibly handled, land reform need look nothing like Zimbabwe. Mr Ramaphosa has been blamed by some for yielding to the ultra-left. In fact, he is yielding to the inevitability of history. If the ANC does not grasp the nettle, others will.

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Aussie travel advisory bashes South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (timeslive.co.za) – Murder‚ rape‚ car hijackings‚ civil unrest‚ water shortages‚ spiked drinks‚ drunk drivers and terrorism.

These are just a few of the horrors that could be encountered by people heading to South Africa‚ according to travel advice by the Australian government’s department of foreign affairs and trade.

Travel advisory website smartraveller.gov.au urges visitors to exercise a “high degree of caution” in South Africa and offers an extensive list of dangers under the heading “safety and security”.

“Crime‚ including violent crime‚ is a serious issue in South Africa. Most types of crime are increasing. Be alert. Don’t expect the same level of service from South African police as you would in Australia‚” warns the website.

This comes fast on the back of thorny comments from Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton‚ who stirred up a hornet’s nest by offering to fast track visa applications for “persecuted” white farmers‚ which his own government then rejected. Protestors took to the streets in Australia to draw attention to “farm murders” in South Africa.

While the US and UK warn travellers about violent crime in South Africa‚ the advisory to Australians is extensive. It includes warning about criminals operating out of the country’s airports‚ robberies and shopping centres and aboard trains running near Johannesburg‚ Pretoria and Cape Town – and of thefts at hotel guest rooms.

“Hikers have been attacked on tracks on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town and the Drakensberg Mountains in Royal National Park‚ KwaZulu-Natal Province‚” it warns. “Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations as they can quickly turn violent… Spontaneous incidents of mob violence have been difficult for local authorities to control.”

It goes on to warn about the possibility of indiscriminate terror attacks and potentially violent tensions between metered taxi or Uber drivers.

“You should be particularly cautious when using public transport. Avoid using minibus taxis due to safety and security concerns. Many of these vehicles are in poor condition‚ drivers are often unlicenced and almost invariably uninsured‚ drive erratically‚ and disputes between rival drivers may become violent‚” says the advisory.

It also warns of “excessive speed and poor driving skills” on otherwise generally good roads frequented by drunk drivers at night.

“You’re four times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in South Africa than in Australia‚” it states.

SA Tourism spokeswoman Thandiwe Mathibela said the organisation was concerned about the advisory‚ saying it had the potential to harm tourism to the country.

“Across the world‚ destination marketing organizations like South African Tourism rely on the travel trade to package and sell South Africa as the ideal leisure and business events destination. It’s not ideal for us when travel advisories are issued which creates the perception that the country is an unsafe travel destination‚” she said.

Mathibela added the organisation worked closely with all our stakeholders “to ensure that we create a safe environment for our tourists and visitors to enjoy our beautiful country”.

 

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School pass marks in South Africa vs the rest of the world

SOUTH AFRICA (businesstech.co.za) – The Department of Basic Education recently requested public comment on several new proposals for changes to pass marks at public schools in South Africa.

Among the changes – which comprise mostly of clarifications of the terms within legislation – there are also proposals to change what constitutes a pass for a learner, and alterations for promotion requirements from grades 7 to 9.

As it stands in South Africa, anything under 30% is considered a fail – but pass conditions are a little bit more complicated than maintaining a 30% average at bare minimum. Specifically, learners have to get:

50% or more in one language at Home Language level;
40% or more in the second required official language at First Additional Language level;
40% or more in Mathematics;
40% or more in any three of the other required subjects – including Natural Sciences, Life Orientation, Social Sciences, Arts and Culture, and Economic Management Sciences.
The department wants this changed to:

40% in four subjects, one of which is a Home Language;
Any three subjects at 30%;
A condonation of 2% in one subject if it will lead to a pass;
The stricter conditions aside, in South Africa’s current grading system, a fail at 29% (with 30% being an ‘elementary pass’), makes the barrier between success and failure one of the lowest in the world.

South Africa already has a reputation for having a poor education system, particularly in the fields of mathematics and science, and the low pass mark is often cited as one of the biggest problems, as it sets the bar quite low in assessment.

Global grading systems

Grading systems around the world are vastly different and have different thresholds for distinction and levels of performance. Some countries use a 10-grade scale, and others use 7-grades or less. These measures can differ between states or provinces, or even individual schools in some cases.

In some European countries – such as Austria – they have moved away from percentage grading entirely, to describing performance levels – like “very good”, “satisfactory” or “very very bad”.

Generally speaking, however, standard ‘pass’ barriers around the world can be divided into three main levels.

The first is around 50% – seen in countries like Australia, Canada, and many European countries. This is also the barrier between a pass and a fail in South African universities.

There are then two other thresholds on either side that make up barriers for passing and failure: 40% – as seen in countries like Japan, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK; and 60% – seen in countries like the USA, China, the Netherlands and Morocco.

There are outliers to both the upper and lower rates – in the USA, for instance, some states or schools set the failure mark to anything below 65%; and in the Philippines, a fail can be below 72% or even 75% at some institutions.

South Africa’s 29% fail line is on the lower side of the exceptions, below places like India, where a fail can be anything below 33%, and the same level and Myanmar, which is also set at 29%.

South Africa’s matric results

For the first time, the Department of Basic Education has published a full breakdown on subject pass levels in its 2017 School Subject Report, which allows us to see exactly how well South Africa’s matrics performed, and how many would have matriculated at higher pass levels.

At South Africa’s current pass barrier of 30%, the 2017 matric class passed with a rate of 75.1% – but if the pass barrier was 40%, this would drop to around 54%.

If South Africa’s matric class needed 50% to pass, the pass rate would have only been around 33%, and if we had to meet the 60% barrier seen in some other countries, only 16% of matrics would have made the cut.

With a pass barrier at 70% (as seen in the Philippines), only 7% of South Africa’s matrics would have passed.

The table below outlines the pass levels across 11 full time matric subjects written in 2017. In total, over 2.5 million papers were written across all subjects by 800,000 students. 1.9 million of these papers were passed at the South African minimum level of 30%.

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How economics can help solve South Africa’s crime problem

KAGISO (CNBC) – Residents from Kagiso township invade the central business district to evict foreigners in their fight against drugs and prostitution on January 22, 2018, in Krugersdorp, South Africa.

  • Empowering people and dealing with poverty are needed to help fight South Africa’s high crime rate, Kingsley Makhubela, chief executive of Brand South Africa told CNBC.
  • Only 30 percent of South Africans feel safe walking at night, an official report said.

South Africa is notorious for its high crime rate, a reflection of its economic inequality and racial tension.

However, there is an economic dimension to solving the problem, a prominent business voice in the country told CNBC on Friday.

“We can’t deal with crime as an isolated incident, we need to look at the totality,” Kingsley Makhubela, chief executive of the nation’s marketing platform Brand South Africa, said.

Transforming society, empowering people and dealing with underlying poverty all must be considered in tackling South Africa’s crime, he added.

“We can’t just look at it as an isolated social phenomena that you find in the country.”

Only 30 percent of South Africans feel safe walking at night, according to a report by Statistics South Africa that measured the period from April 2016 to March 2017. This trend continues to decline.

Some 7.2 percent of South African households were victims of crime in the year recorded, with burglary accounting for the highest proportion of this, at 53 percent. Only 51 percent of victims reported the crime to the police.

“But I think we’re responding very well,” Makhubela said. “We’re educating people how to deal with crime, because part of dealing with this crime — it’s not only the responsibility of government — ordinary people have the responsibility to deal with it.”

“I think we’re better off this time around compared to a few years ago.”

Makhubela was also positive about the fiscal management of new President Cyril Ramaphosa.

He described South Africa’s need to deal with corruption and its state-owned institutions “that played a very important role in the economic development of the country, (but) there’s a process now to transform and reform them.”

Makhubela also referenced the slowdown in economic growth globally as impacting South Africa’s sluggish domestic economy.

He said: “I’m glad that President Ramaphosa has taken concrete decisions to deal with some of the problems that we’ve had in the past.”

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South African pastor jailed in New Zealand for sexual abuse

Pastor Neil Rischbieter, former from Johannesburg in Gauteng, has been found guilty of sexually abusing two young girls in New Zealand.

Rischbieter had committed the offences while one of the girls’ mother was dying of cancer.

Stuff.co.nz reports a court in Waitakere City, Auckland, found Rischbieter guilty on Wednesday and sentenced him to 26 months in jail.

Detective Jason Hamblyn of the New Zealand police says the pastor’s victims were between 12 and 19 years old and the abuse was perpetrated between 2009 and 2017.

“She [one of the victims] was so vulnerable and her mother had died. He knew that she couldn’t possibly tell anyone, no one would believe her,” a stepmother of one of the girls told Stuff.co.nz.

She added that the community had trusted and respected Rischbieter. “He came across as this person who helped the elderly, helped people who were struggling. It’s sickening that he got away with it,” she said.

The stepmom says the family is shattered and the now 17-year-old girl’s life has been destroyed.

According to IOL Rischbieter and his family were the victims of a violent attack in South Africa in 2007. They immigrated to New Zealand shortly after, where he worked as a pastor and businessman.

Sources: IOL, Stuff.co.nz

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South Africa celebrates Winnie Mandela

SOUTH AFRICA (BBC) – Thousands of people have paid tribute to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at a memorial service in Soweto.

The anti-apartheid campaigner and ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, died on 2 April.

Mourners, many clad in the green and yellow colours of the ruling African National Congress, danced and sang in a soccer stadium under grey skies.

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South Africa’s economy could grow much faster than expected

SOUTH AFRICA (businesstech.co.za) – South Africa’s economic growth could pick up faster than forecast if the right structural reforms are implemented, the Reserve Bank said.

That means the economy could expand faster than the 2% for 2020 the central bank projected last month, a rate it hasn’t exceeded since 2013. While 2017 growth at 1.3% beat predictions, this doesn’t mean the economy performed well, the Reserve Bank said in its six-monthly Monetary Policy Review released Tuesday in the capital, Pretoria.

Cyril Ramaphosa replacing Jacob Zuma as head of the ruling African National Congress in December and as president two months later boosted sentiment and the currency on hopes of structural reforms in Africa’s most-industrialised economy.

While Ramaphosa has since changed the cabinet to remove some Zuma appointees who were seen as compromised, overhauled the board of the state power utility and pledged to root out corruption, confidence indexes show business and investors now want to start seeing real reforms.

“The pickup in growth is not especially strong,” the central bank said. “This is mainly because, at this early stage, there is little clarity around the reform agenda and without specifics it is difficult to quantify growth responses.”

Junk Averted

Moody’s Investors Service last month removed the threat of a junk credit rating, citing the impact of political changes. Downgrade concerns could re-emerge if narrowing the nation’s budget deficit prove harder than the markets anticipate, the Reserve Bank said. That, and a current-account deficit that may widen more than expected, could put pressure on the rand, the bank said.

The currency has gained 9% since Ramaphosa was elected ANC leader, helping to lower price pressures. Inflation slowed to an almost three-year low of 4% in February. The central bank forecast it will remain in the 3% to 6% target band until at least the end of 2020, stabilising at just more than 5%.

While current inflation is unusually low, recent developments in services prices and inflation expectations “provide some evidence that positive price shocks, if properly managed, can engender permanently lower inflation,” the central bank said.

The Reserve Bank assumes electricity prices will rise 7.3% in 2019 and 8% in 2020. The central bank’s approach is to wait for an announcement from the energy regulator before adjusting inflation projections, Governor Lesetja Kganyago told a forum on the Monetary Policy Review.

“We hope sanity will prevail in terms of the increases granted,” he said.

The Monetary Policy Committee cut its benchmark repurchase rate to 6.5% last month. The possibility of higher global interest rates, and its effect on inflation through the exchange rate, means the MPC is “not committing to a rate-cutting cycle.”