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We published a new research paper highlighting the dangers of property confiscation (also known as expropriation without compensation) and nationalisation. The paper Private Property, Public Interest: Alternatives to Confiscation and Nationalisation identifies at least five alternatives, each of which empowers the vulnerable, to the government's dangerous plans which simply empower the state.
There are two customary rules in South African law-making that are adhered to almost to a T: The law must make matters worse, or the law must miss the point. Rarely, if ever, does legislation that comes out of the South African Parliament or the provincial legislatures make things better for citizens and consumers. The new National Small Enterprise Amendment Bill, 2020, is no exception.
Both private and public sector corruption, whether moral or criminal, is a result of perverted incentives. These incentives are in turn a result of a political philosophy that regards it as at best appropriate, and at worst imperative, that policy (and political) considerations play a central role in commercial and economic decision-making. South Africa would do better to shift its focus to enterprise and away from politics.
Over the past few weeks, the world stood witness to the spectacle of American politics in the twilight of Donald Trump’s presidency. Many in South Africa joined as keen observers. This episode, like many before it, again highlighted the importance of institutions and the ideas that underlie them – a reality often neglected in the realm of the politics of personality.
South Africa’s flirtation with the idea that government should be allowed to expropriate private property without being legally required to compensate owners for it stands in stark contrast to the constitutional democracy we chose 26 years ago and is already doing great damage to the economy.
The Economic Regulation of Transport Bill (B1-2020) published for public comment is problematic across three broad areas. It unnecessarily and unjustifiably expands the extent and potential scope of government interference in the transport sector; like much other legislation it vests executive officials, primarily here the Minister of Transport and the proposed Regulator, with discretionary powers that are not restrained by any objective guiding criteria; and it is clearly aimed at centralising governmental power away from civil society and independent institutions into the hands of the Department of Transport and its Minister. Also, it contains vague provisions that do not meet the requisite quality of legislative drafting.
It is unfortunate that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not use his 17 June announcement of modifications to South Africa’s level 3 lockdown as an opportunity to end the ill-considered ban on tobacco and related products. Appropriately, on the same day, Africa Check confirmed that the government is losing around R35 million per day in excise taxes for tobacco products.
The Copyright Amendment Bill has caused great uncertainty in South African and global artistic and creative markets. The bill has gone through many revisions and attracted widespread criticism. Today, it awaits and has been waiting for President Ramaphosa’s signature for months. But the whole activity must be restarted due to government’s mishandling of the public participation process. If this is not done, the bill will lack the legitimacy that every government policy requires, particularly from the relevant constituency – in this case, innovators.
Legally we have entered unchartered waters that government, perhaps understandably, appears unable to navigate. Practically, the coronavirus regulations cannot be adhered to in a society composed like South Africa’s. In whichever way one approaches the issue, the coronavirus regulations should in large part be set aside and replaced by less restrictive measures to control the pandemic.
The lockdown has begun. Only movement deemed 'essential' is now allowed – a significant limitation if not suspension of our right to freedom of movement guaranteed in section 21 of the Constitution. This opens a can of worms that our constitutional democracy might be ill-equipped to deal with.