Low business confidence to be expected

That business confidence is at its lowest point in the last two years should not come as a surprise. And it is not as a result of policy uncertainty - the politicians punting expropriation without compensation (EWC) for example, are very conscious of their plans and what they aim to accomplish.

The wave of optimism following President Ramaphosa’s election has definitely ebbed. Quite clearly, South Africa is not pursuing pro-economic freedom policies, and, by extension, policies that would enable economic growth. The Ramaphoria that swept through the country was devoid of any real substance - we fell for the good buzzwords without examining the actions being taken.

Expropriation without compensation is the biggest existential threat that can be made to any business. Amending section 25 of the Constitution to allow for EWC will see the diluting, and eventual dismissal, of any notion of individual property rights we currently have. Property rights cannot be selectively applied - either all property is acknowledged and protected as such, or we amend section 25 and then try to live confidently in a country in which anyone’s property is up for arbitrary seizure by the state. 

EWC is the antithesis of trust between citizens and the state. It negates every degree of security you may feel you have in the business you have spent years building up. With EWC, everyone’s property is up for grabs. Agricultural land (farms), homes, cars, the contents of your bank account, factories, business properties and the capital thereto attached - all of this and more falls under the notion of property rights.

Chris Hattingh is a Researcher at the Free Market Foundation. He has an MPhil in Business Ethics from Stellenbosch University and is the author of published articles on consumer rights, economic freedom, inequality and individual freedom.