Lindiwe Mazibuko MP

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The Green Paper on Land Reform

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The arrival of the Green Paper on Land Reform has been a very long time coming. It is a testament to the importance of this document that so many leaked copies of draft versions have been in circulation over the past year.

This 11 page policy offering gives a glimpse into the ANC’s priorities in respect of land reform. As expected, it relies heavily on a discourse of apartheid and colonial dispossession while paying no attention to government inefficiencies after 17 years in power.

Most importantly, it offers no vision of how to substantially address the inequities bequeathed by apartheid in a coherent and sustainable way. If the Green Paper is implemented in its current form, the landless of South Africa will continue to feel the effects of the past.

There is no question that South Africa needs an effective, well-implemented land reform programme. It is a moral imperative that the injustices created by the 1913 Land Act – which forced millions of black South Africans off their land – are addressed.

The DA’s own vision for land reform is of a thriving rural economy in which the injustices of apartheid and colonialism are effectively and decisively redressed through a combination of sustainable job-creating economic growth, and a well-managed and appropriately resourced land restitution and redistribution programme.

This Green Paper is very far from this vision.

We have very serious concerns about the proposed Land Management Commission which will be given wide-ranging discretionary powers to subpoena, award amnesty and invalidate land ownership. These are powers that should be in the hands of the courts, not in a quasi-autonomous body within the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and accountable to the Ministry.

We have similar concerns with the proposed establishment of a Land Valuer-General mandated to determine financial compensation in cases of land expropriation. Again, this is a task that should be left to the judiciary – as specifically provided for in the Constitution. Appointing a non-independent body to determine compensation will be open to abuse and undermine the constitutional principle of willing-buyer-willing-seller.

These measures will create instability and undermine confidence in South Africa’s rural economy. This will have a detrimental impact on economic growth and job creation.

Our main concern in the Green Paper lies with the government’s focus on the 3 million South Africans who live and work on privately-owned farms, while failing adequately to deal with the issue of communal land tenure which affects the 16 million landless South Africans who reside in the former apartheid homelands.

In the Green Paper, the Minister notes that because of the complexity of communal land tenure and the recent nullification of the Communal Land Rights Act (CLARA) by the Constitutional Court, its policy in this regard will be ‘treated in a separate policy articulation’ and suggests that the communal tenure will be according to ‘institutionalised use rights’.

What we are seeing here is a lack of political will to confer full land rights to people who live on communally-owned land. At least 4.5 million of these people are engaged in agricultural activity.

In order to ensure the security of tenure of those currently living in the former homelands, a formal registration process of individual deed titles of land and buildings in these areas must begin. In order to ensure the continued success of the citizens granted full individual title, the government must institute and oversee an effective programme of post-settlement support, offering beneficiaries economic and agricultural support in the form of resource and advisory services.

Land reform in South Africa can be a “win-win” scenario, in which the injustices of the past are redressed, while at the same time growing the rural economy, creating jobs, and ensuring access to opportunity for all South Africans.

In order to achieve these aims, the overarching objective of any government responsible for answering the land question must be to drive rural economic growth and job creation. Instead of vilifying property rights, the government can and should expand access to them in order to empower landless South Africans economically and redress the imbalances of the past.

This Green Paper does not come close to addressing the myriad issues which affect this policy area. The Minister needs to go back to the drawing board and draft a policy document that details a comprehensive and substantive plan for land reform in South Africa.

Link to full DA response on the Green Paper on Land Reform: 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Cu4pdGd63y4kf9mKLXNgiXP89fZ3mpFXpb-JfBD0nUY/edit?hl=en_US

Written by Lindiwe Mazibuko

September 27, 2011 at 09:00

Posted in Uncategorized

Campaign Diary Week 5: DA Manifesto Launch marks beginning of Election 2011

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Manifesto Launch – Kliptown

The Democratic Alliance (DA) Manifesto Launch this past Saturday in Kliptown, Soweto marked the start of our local government election campaign in earnest. We have, of course, been preparing for this crucial election since the end of 2009, just as we have already begun to think about the 2014 general election during the course of this campaign. Nevertheless, Kliptown was a seminal moment, as it was the first time the DA was able to stand up and declare on the basis of sound experience that it is now a party of government.

This has been a significant departure from previous election campaigns. In the past, what we have been able to offer South Africa’s voters is a party with a long track record of effective opposition – providing oversight over the governing party, and ensuring the Executive is continuously and rigorously held to account for its actions in office. We continue to do that in all three spheres of government, but what we were also able to offer South Africa for the first time in Kliptown last Saturday, was a party with a proven and effective track record in government, with the DA-led City of Cape Town as its flagship municipality.

The choice of Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown – the place where the Freedom Charter was first adopted by the Congress of the People in 1955 – as the location for our launch was also significant. The message was twofold: the DA is a party that remembers the events of South Africa’s difficult past, and we will never forget the sacrifices that were made to secure the democratic dispensation in which we operate today. But we are also a party of the future, and our future lies beyond the municipalities of the Western Cape, in which we have made significant inroads in electoral support. With a foothold in government in two other provinces (Gauteng and the Eastern Cape), Johannesburg – and Soweto in particular – symbolises the next frontier for the Democratic Alliance, and it is in this election that we plan to lay the foundation for our future success as a party of government in other provinces, and ultimately, nationally.

SABC Debate

This Sunday’s weekly SABC Election Debate at the University of Johannesburg was boisterous and eventful as ever – with party supporters from the DA, ANC, IFP and PAC, as well as citizens groups from diverse Gauteng neighbourhoods turning out in their numbers to support and engage with the panellists on the issue of service delivery protests.  The debate highlighted an aspect of constitutional democracy that does not get quite as much attention in South Africa as it should: the absence of the fundamental link in the minds of voters between casting their ballot, and getting a particular government in return. This is significant in part because of the identity dynamics behind so many voters’ choices – a remnant of our painfully divided apartheid past. Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane – who represented the ANC in the debate – made this point himself when he said that many of the people who protest against their local ANC government are themselves ANC supporters.

In other words, unlike the citizens of North Africa’s Arab states, where the recent wave of anti-government protests has been driven by frustration with the absence of democratic freedom in those countries, service delivery protesters in South Africa vote for the ANC on one day, and protest against it the next. South Africans have yet to acknowledge that they still have at their disposal a powerful weapon in the fight against corruption and maladministration: the vote.

DA Cape Town Mayoral Candidate Patricia de Lille also alluded to this issue at the Manifesto Launch when she urged South Africans to “Lend us your vote for five years, and see if we can do a better job than the ruling party. If we don’t, then lend your vote to somebody else!” We will truly be on course towards building a multi-party democracy when voters’ electoral choices are an expression of whether or not they are satisfied with their incumbent government, rather than an expression of who they are.

The Cape Town Story

Lastly, while we remained camped out in Johannesburg (which will be the case for much of this election), Monday saw the launch of the DA’s Cape Town Story from the 50th floor of the iconic Carlton Centre – a venue with sweeping and dramatic views of the metropolis below.

In attendance was the DA’s new candidate for the Mayor of Johannesburg, Mmusi Maimane, for whom the story of the DA’s successes in turning around Cape Town – which 5 years ago was South Africa’s worst metro municipality, and today is its best – will be a pivotal part of his offer to the voters of Joburg. Like the data from other municipalities we govern, such as Baviaans in the Eastern Cape and Midvaal in Gauteng, our record makes the choice for South Africa’s voters simpler than it has ever been: between a party with a proven track record of corruption, maladministration and inefficiency at local government level, and a party running municipalities that a long succession of government and private institutions have named the best in South Africa.

Ultimately, that is what makes this 2011 Municipal Election fundamentally different to previous polls. And it is also what makes the DA different.

Written by Lindiwe Mazibuko

March 30, 2011 at 15:08

Posted in Uncategorized

Cell Phone Interconnection Rates: it’s not our call

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The Minister of Communications, Siphiwe Nyanda, is eager to paint as a victory the agreement reached with the three major South African cell phone operators to drop peak interconnection rates by 39c and leave off-peak rates unchanged. No doubt there is some political traction to be gained by claiming that this planned decrease – which will only take effect in February and March 2010 – constitutes “a big early Christmas and Easter present” for the people of South Africa, and will, as the Minister claims,  “put[ting] money back in the pockets of ordinary South Africans”.

 

The reality, however, as Lloyd Gedye argues, is that this rate is the result of talks in which mobile networks have, understandably, sought to negotiate the best possible deal for themselves, rather  than to bring interconnection down to a cost-based rate. Telecoms operators are business-people, whose natural objectives are to maximise profit and drive expansion. It has never been their responsibility to see to it that their pricing regime is as fair as possible towards telecoms consumers – that is the job of the independent regulator, which has thus far failed spectacularly to carry out this crucial aspect of its mandate.

 

If the generally-accepted consensus amongst experts and smaller players in the industry – that the true cost of connecting callers between networks cannot be more than about 20c per minute – is true, then the Minister’s planned reduction to a “blended interconnection rate” of 77c is indeed “cosmetic”, as Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt once described Vodacom’s proposal of a 78c blended rate.

 

But this is not a decision which can or must be made by politicians; nor should we, as politicians, succumb to the temptation to brand this a war between “the goodies” (the South African consumer), and “the baddies” (the big mobile and fixed-line phone operators). Rather, we must ensure that the state institutions whose collective responsibility it is to ensure that consumers get a fair deal in this sector do their jobs swiftly and effectively.

 

One month ago, Parliament concluded its public hearings into the plausibility, or not, of mobile operators in South Africa reducing interconnection fees (the fee charged by operators for allowing calls from other networks to be terminated on their own) from the current R1.25 per minute, to 60c per minute.

 

Speculation was rife from the outset – much of it perfectly valid – as to the purpose of these hearings: was the National Assembly assuming responsibility for the regulation of termination rates – a responsibility which falls squarely on the shoulders of ICASA? Or was the Portfolio Committee on Communications, which hosted the hearings, attempting to usurp the functions of its corresponding Department by directing telecommunications policy?

 

The truth – and indeed the reason that the Democratic Alliance (DA) MPs on the committee agreed to support the holding of these hearings – is simpler and less sinister than either of these: we wanted to offer the South African public, and the industry players who stood to be affected by any regulatory changes to the interconnect rate, an opportunity to come to Parliament and make representations about whether the proposed rate is realistic, too high, or indeed too low; to reflect on how the high cost of telephony in South Africa (and the cost is indeed high – objective benchmarking studies comparing South Africa to its peer group countries have shown this) has affected members of the public, their families and their businesses; and to afford both the major industry players and smaller license-holders, who are eager for a fair shake at breaking into the telecoms market, the chance to reflect on how changes of this nature might affect their businesses and the sector as a whole.

 

Interconnection rates are necessarily monopolistic because, for example, only Vodacom can terminate a call from another network operator to a Vodacom phone, and likewise only Cell C can terminate a call to a Cell C customer from a Telkom phone. This is why the effective regulation of interconnection rates is essential to stimulate competition in the sector, since high interconnection rates create a disincentive for users on a major network to move to a smaller, emerging one, no matter how low the small network prices its tariffs. The dynamics of market share (two networks being significantly bigger than the rest) mean that most calls from the smaller networks will be made to the bigger networks (unlike big network customers, whose calls will more often remain “on-net”), resulting in a punitive cost to those who choose to switch to a smaller network. In addition, a standardised interconnection rate of R1.25 limits the scope for competitive pricing by smaller networks, creating a further disincentive for consumers to try alternative carriers, which stifles competition in the sector.

 

The parliamentary hearings were heated and emotional from the start, with consumer and civil interest groups such as Highway Africa and the Unemployed People’s Movement making the case for drastic cuts on the basis that the high cost of communicating eats into as much as 30% of the household income of ordinary South Africans.

 

From The Business Place, an SMME support network, and Thabiso Mokgoro, a businessman and member of the public who made his written submission in a lucid, one page e-mail, we heard that unintelligible tariff pricing structures, indifferent customer service, and exorbitant prepaid tariffs during peak hours (most small business opt for prepaid rather than contract cell phones, as the risks of seeing their businesses blacklisted for spiralling cell phone bills are much too high) are a massive hindrance to their ability to operate effectively.

 

Everybody who participated in the hearings – including the major operators – did so entirely voluntarily, and on the basis of written submissions which they submitted to the parliamentary committee earlier in the month. While the temptation towards outrage and the demonization of cell phone operators in this context was great – and indeed committee MPs spared none of their fire in demanding that the big operators account for their high tariffs – the reality remains that it is not Parliament’s responsibility to regulate and/or dictate the price of interconnection; that is the function of the communications regulator.

 

In their submission during the hearings, senior executives from the second fixed-line operator, Neotel, rightly argued that the regulation of interconnection must be pursuant to a clearly-defined process. They also urged that the industry be provided with some clarity as to the effect of the multiple processes which the public outcry over this matter has spurred the government, Parliament, and ICASA to undertake in order to reduce mobile termination rates. Other industry players – particularly the smaller operators and new entrants – urged Parliament to engage with the full spectrum of problems inhibiting the liberalisation of the telecoms sector – instead of focusing only on interconnection, which cannot alone stimulate competition in the sector.

 

If there is a single lesson that MPs learned during the parliamentary hearings, it is that interconnection is not a panacea that will solve the problem of high telecoms pricing in South Africa – as has been suggested by some politicians, who have welcomed this so-called “Christmas bonus” for the South African people. We will only see long-term, sustainable benefits to the South African consumer if we adhere to and carry out our respective mandates:

 

The Department of Communications must draft and gazette comprehensive communications policies – not issue sexy, quick-fire, but very likely unenforceable Ministerial Policy Directives to the regulator; ICASA must regulate – and not allow in-fighting and fear of litigation to paralyse its attempts to carry out its mandate; and Parliament must legislate and provide effective oversight over both – and not confuse the public or spook the industry by appearing to want to usurp the roles of the regulator and the Communications Minister.

 

Written by Lindiwe Mazibuko

November 16, 2009 at 10:57

Posted in Uncategorized