South Africa update

The National Assembly on Tuesday set in motion a process to amend the Constitution so as to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

The motion, brought by the EFF leader Julius Malema, was adopted with a vote of 241 in support, and 83 against.

The only parties who did not support the motion were the DA, Freedom Front Plus, Cope and the ACDP.

The matter will now be referred to the Constitutional Review Committee which must report back to Parliament by August 30.

That is from a South African website, and the story really does seem to be true.  Yet reputable Western outlets do not seem to have much interest in reporting on this, except for this piece on Quartz.

There has been more coverage of Cape Town possibly running out of water.  I do understand that foreign troubles often look worse from a distance, but still in an era when emerging economies have been booming, including in most of Africa, it is hard not to be put off by these developments.  I am not sure how to interpret the data quality issues, but it is not obvious that the median wage has increased since the fall of apartheid.


And yet the mainstream media goes into bouts of apocalyptic apoplexy whenever an immigration restrictionist party joins a majority coalition in an Eastern European parliament

In South Africa we are seeing the inevitable movement towards a genocide. Slow at first, then quickening. Eventually we will see a disaster there and everyone who is now enabling it will put on their surprise face and claim to be "shocked".

"Yet reputable Western outlets ...": it's hard to tell whether that description is dripping in sarcasm. It certainly should be.

“reputable Western outlets do not seem to have much interest in reporting on this, except for this piece on Quartz.“

Tyler, you shouldn’t bring this topic up, you could be shunned. Be careful.

That url was ... strange ...

That image is no longer there.

Ah, Wakanda about to be birthed.

Did Cyril Ramaphosa get a net worth of $450 million by terrifying "white monopoly capital?"

If anything, he probably did more to terrify black workers. One wonders what Cyril-the-trade-unionist would have said about Cyril-the-board-member's role in the Marikana massacre - .

Anyway, my folks are farmers down there. I spoke with my brother last night, and asked him what he thought about the latest round of expropriation talk. He laughed and said some tsotsi will probably try to kill him before the government tries to take his farm, so it is not that high on his list of things to worry about. That's one of the best things about being a white farmer in South Africa: it cures you of worrying about minor problems.

It also offers interesting challenges to ideas about rational economic actors. I've been urging my folks for a long time to sell the farms while they can. Yet my father was born on his farm (as was his father), and his firstborn son is buried there. So he intends to die there. Chances are he'll get his wish.

If I lived in SA, I would never have more than 25% of my capital in land....


Once the whites are....gone.... then how soon before south African teenagers start inventing flying cars? Two weeks?

Mixed race kids are smarter, and that means black + white > black alone, white alone. And you do know why in the Black Panther movie the Vibranium is shown in the form of an electrified railroad with a THIRD RAIL? That's your clue, inventor, THIRD RAIL. Don't touch dat!

South Africa reversing to the black African country mean: incompetence, corruption, tribalism

Sounds like the USA to me. One reason I predict a class war between the haves (that's me, in the 1%) and the have-less.

Yes, because nothing spurs violent revolt quite like the thought that someone else has a Mercedes while you only have a Toyota.

It’s the flippant jackass Ray we learn the least from, who could have predicted that?

Context matters a hell of a lot here, as someone who lives in Cape Town. We have a new president who is immensely better than the old and even Malema says this must be done in a way that doesn't hurt the economy which is basically code for it ain't gonna actually happen like it hasn't happened since 94. Compensation has never been the real stumbling block to redistribution here. The land issue here is full of signalling and mood affiliation, concern is warranted but not based on reading one article. Also the media here is particularly hyperbolic sometimes, the paranoia about not becoming another Zimbabwe sometimes gets the better of them.

I live in Johannesburg and broadly concur with this comment. There is so much political signaling going on, any news outlet would likely do the whole topic a disservice. The twitter and sound bite approach is designed to lead to hysteria and polarization.

Probably worth reading this article too

The constitution has always allowed for compensation to be below market value for the land but that hasn't happened and probably wont start now, especially with Ramaphosa in office now. It is a bit worrying that the issue has gotten a lot more play recently, but for now, people should probably just chill.

"but for now, people should probably just chill."

Like white farmers in Zimbabwe in 1999? When should they have stopped chilling?

When slaughtered. SA+25yrs=Zimbab(Rhodesia)

I am somewhat less chilled than I was a little while ago, but I'm a lot more chilled than a lot of the hysterical reaction I've seen online.

But just as the constitution allowing for below market compensation didn't mean below market compensation happened. An amendment allowing for no compensation doesn't mean that will happen either.

The value of the rand didn't change much.

The fact that things went bad in Zimbabwe does not settle the argument.

You white South Africans are crazy if you stay. Start applying for citizenship now so you don’t have to be refugees later.

The advice "just chill" is nuts. White South Africans are a 10% minority and have maybe the highest per capita rate of being murdered in the world. They're now ruled by a coalition of communists and racial activists, who joke about exterminating them. If this is not a precursor to genocide, I don't know what is. Jews could have dismissed Hitler's talk as "just signaling and mood affiliation" until the gas chambers.

That "maybe" in your "maybe the highest per capita rate of being murdered in the world" is doing a lot of work there. It's not true.

Honestly, you really do need to chill.

So rates of violent crime in South Africa are not a source of serious concern? Good to know!

“White South Africans are a 10% minority and have maybe the highest per capita rate of being murdered in the world.”


But that is not what you said. You said the murder rate was maybe the highest in the world. You have now softened that to violent crime is a source of serious concern and pretended that people objected to the new statement.

Surely this is something we can measure empirically. As it turns out, whites are actually *less* likely to be the victims of violent crime in South Africa than other ethnic groups.

Two different people, brah

"They’re now ruled by a coalition of communists and racial activists, who joke about exterminating them"
Why is it taking so long?


Thanks for the local perspective.

Isn't this about rent and who gets it? The blacks don't actually have to farm the land themselves; they can lease it to other farmers, agribusiness, multinationals, even back to the Boers, and collect the rent. Although it's unlikely the Boers would become tenant farmers, given their history and culture. They have a Calvinist culture and a plantation style of farming where they're the "Baas" employing black labor. Moreover, the Boers originated from people who left Holland so they wouldn't have to pay rent to a landlord and could collect the rent themselves.

To the extent that such a policy would distribute rents more broadly, it would a quasi-Georgist one, no?

It is about votes.

Which means something is deeply, deeply wrong with South African society if it's so massively uninformed that such an obviously terrible idea is seen as a vote getter.

It says nothing good about South Africans ability to to choose their own leaders if they produce this kind of claptrap

democracy threshhold 1 - wishful 1990's thinking - 0

Why is it an "obviously terrible idea" to break up concentrations in land ownership?

Property rights...

It's not a terrible idea in all times and places, but in this particular case it is because:

a) property rights (once governments start grabbing things from unfavored groups it can be hard to stop

b) corruption (endemic in Africa which makes turning back the forces of a) even more difficult

c) the danger of productive land lying fallow, see Zimbabwe, largely caused by a) and b)

Those are the big problems, there's probably more I haven't thought of

Does anyone broadly believe that rents will be distributed any more broadly than the back-pockets of ANC bigwigs?

Seriously, I predict that "land reform" like this will concentrate ownership in the farm sector, so disperse it.

So do you think the policy itself is wrong, or just that it's implementation will be wrong?

I suggest....both!

From Zuma to legalized expropriation. That's supposed to be an improvement?

As of March 2, the most recent NYT coverage is a Reuters article from Feb 27 with the disobliging headline "Vote in South Africa's Parliament Moves Land Reform Closer"; the Guardian and CNN have nothing at all. I think those editors genuinely don't understand how their weird silence on issues like these partially explains why Trump won in 2016.

Excellent. Rofl. In a similar vein:

"New German rail stations move settlement of Jewish question closer."
"Serbian volunteers assist re-housing of Kosovo elderly, young."
"Genghis Khan puts less emphasis on multilateral diplomacy in major speech".
"Delay in Turkish census as Armenians fail to complete their returns"
"ISIL institutes new religious settlement with other ancient faiths"

Achieving Nazi Germany's level of civilization would be a giant leap forward for Africans.

And Americans too...

What fraction of likely voters know or care what’s going on in South Africa?

But... what fraction of NYT or Guardian readers? Probably a decent-sized number.

The Daily Mail, however, has been all over the story for a few days, with easy-to-understand, photo-rich articles that get hundreds of comments and fill the void that's been created by the "respectable" new outlets. Missed opportunity.

There has been amount of discussion in conservative social media and among alt-righters, too.

The trouble with long standing oppressive regimes like Apartheid was is it's legacy. Making a peaceful transition work is very hard because of former regime's dark legacy. Most people believe (and are probably right) that the "best lands" are in hands of white people not necessarily because they paid a fair price for it to its original owners as an important part of it was formerly owned/occupied by Africans who were expropriated without compensations centuries ago, maybe it happened too long ago but others can argue otherwise.

However, the expropriation of land without compensation seems like a bad idea and will probably only make the matters worse. In a huge country like South Africa people in need of land for agriculture will likely find cheap land to pursuit their goals but the "key" here is "best lands" as most people understand to be those nearby water sources and proper exposure to other climate conditions. What South African government could do is subsidize the improvement of "not so good" uncopied land making use of existing technologies and expand farmed lands while avoiding unnecessary social tensions. Training poor Africans would help their productivity as well, too bad populist moves like this yield better political results and EFF are well aware of this.

(oh sure, but remind me what the Zulu did to the lands of their victims?)

Seriously though, the obsession about land reform is atavistic. Agriculture is 2.6% of SA GDP. 2.6%!

You could re-distribute the lot to the ANCs patronage network and it would change the welfare of black South Africans not one jot. But the idea of "land redistribution" is a good proxy for organising a racist rent-seeking mob under the auspices of nasty little pieces of work like Malema. Like the tragic fate of Zimbabwe, what they will be left with is a heap of ashes that were the agricultural sector and a handful of successful farms enriching ANC bigwigs.

I'm not advocating expropriation (with or without compensation), I'm acknowledging that being land reform a hot topic ("activistic" as you put it) radical and desperate political groups will always gravitate around it whenever they need to raise their "street cred" because "the streets" believes that's a way to both improve their lives and give white people "a slap in the face" so a good way to deactivate such arguments could be subsidizing unoccupied lands elsewhere, they could alternatively stay put and face much larger social and potentially economic costs.

(NB - Atavistic not Activistic. This is a resurgence of an old African liberationist nostrum that I had hoped was gone.)

That's fair enough.

But I think SA agriculture is pretty marginal outside a few really good areas. You could burn a lot of money on such subsidy.

This post is a good lesson for whites elsewhere, you will be exterminated if allowed to become a minority. And then psuedointellectuals like above will come along and lecture you that just don't understand history, context and the dark "legacy" of a million years of oppressions and hence probably deserve your coming execution. Because blacks are the rentlentless victims of rentlentless white racism, all the time everywhere and that explains everything. Including why whites deserve death. If you think this a small nutter position take look at the univisions great black website the "Root" most popular story ever ceberating the coming south Africa extermination with mockery and laughter. That's who what you are up against today.

And it was neither owned nor occupied by the blacks currently in government or seeking the land. They are entirely refugee and migration stock. What few descendents of the natives there were in the 17thr century are treated with the same distain and hatred by the government. So there is no justice going on here even theortitically.

But from the racial nationalist perspective you're coming from, justice and legitimacy are determined by racial identity and genetic distance, which means the blacks would be entitled to the land. Unless of course you don't actually have a general racial nationalist perspective but rather a white supremacist one.

A third perspective is the view of the upcoming, completely and utterly unexpected, food shortages in about, oh, 10 years after mass expropriation of agricultural land.

I thought this post was thought-provoking:

@JCC, You present a history where ethnic blacks were noble victims and the rightful owners of the land and whites were the villains and there by wrongdoing. This type of history is driven entirely by political interests. It may contain historical facts, but those facts are aggressively chosen and filtered by political interests.

Consider most of Africa and nations like Saudi Arabia and Yemen practiced full blown, open slavery through much of the 20th century. Slaves were captured, often castrated or mutilated, and worked to the death. African tribes regularly fought, killed, and enslaved others. There was nothing remotely close to western ideas of human rights. South Africa abolished human slavery in 1834. South Africa was one of the first nations with a modern judicial system that gave fair trials. Arguably South Africa Apartheid was a bastion of human rights compared to its peers.

South African Apartheid probably gave more rights and fair trials to black people than Saudi Arabia gives to guest laborers today.

economies have been booming, including in most of Africa
in a galaxy far far away

China will buy Africa(SubS) in the next twenty or so years. What else can they buy with their surpluses?* When China owns Africa that dot crawling up to 4,000,000,000 on the Worlds Most Important Chart will stop rising.

*well, us, I guess.

I look forward to the Chinese Dominion in Africa. I think after 60 years of grousing about white racist colonial yadda yadda yadda, it will be wonderfully instructive for the locals in what a real bit of imperialism looks like. Alas, unlike good Baizuo, the Han barely bother to hide their disgust at the African people and culture...I am sure western media will glide gracefully over the subsequent scenes....

Amusing trivia: back in 2008, the Chinese Association of South Africa got tired of not being able to benefit from government policies aimed at "black empowerment", and took the SA government to court. They won, and Chinese South Africans were re-classified as black people.

Under Apartheid, by contrast, Japanese etc were classified as "honorary whites".

From 1948 to some in the late 70s or even early 80s, Chinese South Africans had the same non-white status as Coloureds and Indians while the Japanese were, yes, white by legal standards. By the mid 80s, Chinese had effectively become white and a non-trivial amount of Taiwanese immigration was one of the results.

Also, SA was one of the very few countries to continue to recognize the Republic of China... lived in Taiwan in the 1980s, the American school had quite a few South Africans.

Interesting. I guess the Chinese minority in SA is pretty small though? It's not a big thing to buy them off?

The future of China in Africa will look at least partly like the famous clip from Empire of Dust

China's fertility rate suggests that its future is going to look more like a bigger (yet poorer and less stable) version of Japan. I doubt Africans have very much to fear from China.

Of course, sub-Saharan Africa's population growth is unsustainable in the very long term, but perhaps that 4 billion mark will be achieved. Despite the need for family planning in Africa, I'm reluctant to blame Africans for valuing children over iPhones, handbags, and fancy ethnic dining.

South Africa must die so sensible debate can live.

Remember, it took 15-20 years for Zimbabwe to collapse. SA is running a little behind schedule as they had a larger stock of physical and human capital to burn through, but they will get there. But don't worry; we can all celebrate the memory of Nelson Mandela and the rainbow nation, even as the fires burn.

People like Malema may trash the place, but South Africa to date is more than 'a little behind schedule'. As early as 1980, one of Mugabe's cabinet ministers beat a murder rap in a case wherein he was blatantly guilty (the victims included a white farmer and his employees; the state perpetrators were a black assessor and a coloured assessor in the court case, who overruled the white judge). Ian Smith discovered as early as 1981 that Mugabe's megalomania was so severe that any criticism of him in the newspapers precluded cordial dealings in parliament. By about 1986, Mugabe's army was stomping all over Matabeleland and the death toll was in the thousands. By 2000, bogus 'war veterans' were seizing the remaining white farms. BTW, Mugabe was so bad that there's been a vigorous opposition party in Zimbabwe the last 15 years, kept out of office by vote fraud; in South Africa, the sensible opposition consists of parties representing racial minorities.

If a politician saying one thing and then doing the opposite were a crime, our president would be in jail. No politician, in South Africa or anywhere else, is better at signaling than our current president. Read Cowen's next blog post. After a presidential campaign devoted to criticizing not only Obama but also Bush, Trump has adopted the same Bush policies that led to the financial collapse. I have strong feelings about expropriation of land without compensation because one of my best friends is from Zimbabwe and that's what happened to his family's farm, a farm that had been in the family many generations. Land owners in South Africa can only hope that the politicians in their country are like our own president, signaling to his base while adopting policies that are the opposite of the signals.

"Trump has adopted the same Bush policies that led to the financial collapse." Which policies are (hint: legion)? I doubt you or anyone around here knows - too much brain bleach. It's why financial crises keep repeating.

I'm shocked. Shocked! Shocked that it seems I'm the only one that saw the SA land-expropriation thingy coming?

Reuters is calling it "land reform"

Alex just called for more land reform in India (, maybe they saw his post and where inspired.
In the end, BRICS countries are pretty much all the same, no?

No, there hasn't been much coverage of this. But Rod Dreher's blog at The American Conservative has a post on it, and there is also a fuller explanation of the details in one of the comments there.

I have had work in SA for a number of years, get out there pretty frequently and have some familiarity with the place. White people with assets have either emigrated or moved money offshore rather than wait to see whether the chattering class concludes that SA will end up like Zim. Physical assets like farms are being sold. I would say there is a 75% probability SA ends up like Zim. SA still has an aggressive press and a reasonably good judiciary but my bet is that their emasculation is on the way.

> expropriation of land without compensation

When someone is lying to themself, I noticed that they used words that are hard for the brain to process, either because they're very long or not common (or not commonly used like that).

Compare "stealing" to "expropriation without compensation". One of them is easy to understand and feels bad. The other feels less bad but only because it's harder to understand.

I only learned in recent years that there's a term for this:

Did their white ancestors not "steal" the land originally? Land expropriation may be bad idea, but let's get off our high horse, shall we. White rule in SA (and Zim) was brutal and unjust.

I think the chances of a populist land grab in South Africa (never very high) have actually gone down over the past few months. Look at the ANC’s actions during its 24 years in power, not its rhetoric. Many bad policies for sure, but never anything close to radically populist, of the sort that would seriously scare the financial markets. Destruction of the (well entrenched and sophisticated) property rights system would certainly do that. So it’s unlikely to happen.

The only time there seemed to be a risk of edging in that direction was when Zuma and his faction started seriously losing support (2016-17). They responded by ratcheting up the populist and racist rhetoric (“white monopoly capital” etc), but ultimately it didn’t work. They lost, and power in the ANC has shifted back to the more market friendly centrists, typified by Ramaphosa.

That’s why I think the risks have gone down (since Zuma was ousted), despite the recent parliamentary vote to “expropriate without compensation”. The sound bite plays well to a certain audience, as other commenters have noted, but I agree it’s mostly just signaling. When you look at the details it’s not as scary as it sounds.

Firstly, they didn’t vote to do it, they voted to set up a committee to investigate doing it, subject to various caveats and constraints, e.g. must increase agricultural production and improve food security; there must be public and expert consultation; appropriate mechanisms, etc. It seems exteremely unlikely that the ANC’s intention is to summarily expropriate all land without compensation, nor does it say that in the parliamentary motion or in any ANC policy statement (that is indeed the EFF’s position, but they have less than 10% electoral support). Far more likely is we’ll end up with some sort of watered down constitutional amendment that allows expropriation without compensation in certain defined and limited circumstances, but overall system of property rights remains intact for vast majority of land and other assets.

By the way, I suspect the most outsiders seriously underestimate the strength of South Africa’s constitution and supporting institutions. They have stood remarkably firm over the past few years in the face of concerted attempts by Zuma and his cronies to undermine them. Compared, for example, to a country like Turkey, whose constitution, judiciary, media and civil society have been crushed in the space of a few years by a similarly venal and power-deluded single politician.

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on this today.

South Africa will join the club of pothole countries, like Zimbabwe and Congo. Very sad.

From what I have heard about this, it would only involve land that is not in active, productive use. I still very much agree it's wrong, but it's not the case that anyone will lose his home or business.

One sees a lot of self-delusion among the whites left in South Africa. Two inexorable forces are at work:

1. Blacks (and to a lesser extent Coloureds and Indians) believe that the way to prosperity is through political power.
2. The gap between blacks and whites will not change appreciably during normal political and economic development. This is because 1 is false and most blacks do not have valuable skills.

The fact that the ANC has been in power for decades is no comfort. Belief in 1. will lead sooner or later to a determination to fix 2 by measures like confiscating land. Doing so will not fix 2 either, but that won't stop them. The idea that current moves are just signaling is the height of self-delusion. The destruction of South African agriculture is actually inevitable given 1, and you can set your own dates for it---it doesn't much matter when. Generations have been raised believing the poisonous consequences of 1. Western (and domestic) intellectuals bear much of the blame for that.

I'm sure that as soon as the Kulaks, er, whites are removed from the land a new era of peace and prosperity will abound. After all, what could go wrong?

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck.”

- Robert Heinlein

That's a nonsense remark. Human capital is broadly distributed throughout any population. Living standards over place and time. To speak of societies as living in 'poverty' or 'prosperity' is to speak with a literary idiom, not a social-scientific one. Sustained or severe declines in living standard can have a number of sources: plague, demographic implosion due to culture or the architecture of social institutions, warfare, and catastrophic efforts at state mobilization of economic resources. You can find misery from horrible policy (see Venezuela), but it isn't exceptionally common and the impact on economic life is intermediated through the behavior of all economically active people, not just through techno-supermen (whose Boswells Heinlien and Ayn Rand imagined themselves to be).

Human Capital may be distributed, but local knowledge is not. My snarky comment about Kulaks was not entirely off-point. After the Bolsheviks forced the Kulaks off their land (or hung them over it) they discovered that the Kulaks knew a lot of little things about farming their land that the Bolsheviks didn't know. They also discovered that the kind of people who are good at glomming on to power in a political hierarchy are not necessarily the same kinds of people who can run a farm, yet it was the connected and powerful that gained control over them. The result was a rapid drop in agricultural output, followed by famine.

This type of result has always been the case when farming was collectivized or when the people who know how to farm an area are forced off it and the land given to others.

How many times does this particular mistake have to be made before people learn better?

Tyler I don’t know why you doubt the veracity of this policy. You can watch on youtube the new SA president in his first speech after his appointment say there will be “expropriation without compensation”. His Marxist parliamentiary colleague Mr Malema says the same phrase repeatedly to cheers. There is also video of Mr Malema saying “we are not calling for the slaughtering of white people at least for now”

And here at 11:30 the President says expropriation without compensation is policy:

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