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Letters to the editor: February 22 to 28

Land: Don’t subvert the law

Fittingly, human rights advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi (“The land wars of 2019: Analysing the EFF and ANC manifestos”) argues that, “granting the power of land redistribution to the state, as the people of Zimbabwe have witnessed, simply encourages corruption, arbitrary conduct and lack of accountability … in reimagining the institutions of land reform [in South Africa], the most vital element is the rule of law”.

That he should argue along these lines is no surprise for the additional reason that he is the author of The Land Is Ours: Black Lawyers and the Birth of Constitutionalism in South Africa, which, according to the publisher, “tells the story of South Africa’s first black lawyers, who operated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries”, and who, “in an age of aggressive colonial expansion, land dispossession and forced labour … believed in a constitutional system that respected individual rights and freedoms, and … used the law as an instrument against injustice”.

The book is “particularly relevant in light of current calls to scrap the Constitution and its protections of individual rights”.

How perplexing, then, that in his article Ngcukaitobi should argue that “[m]any developing economies across the globe have now accepted that title deeds do not constitute the magic wand to the problem of insecure tenure to land” and that title deeds “do not solve the problem, and in some instances compound it”.

South Africa’s history since 1994 could be said to demonstrate that constitutionalism born of universal franchise is not a “magic wand” either and, to the extent that the government has wreaked havoc with the state at the cost mostly of the poor, may even be said to have compounded South Africa’s challenges. But these are not good arguments for dispensing with the rule of law.

If it is uncontroversial that massive dispossession in recent Southern African (post-1600) history disrupted and narrowed the lives of millions, it is every bit as uncontroversial that property rights are the demonstrable anchor of human rights and freedoms in all free societies. The reverse, vide Zimbabwe, proves the rule. The challenge in South Africa today is not to contrive a legal means of undermining the property rights of some in the slim hope that such deprivation will confer advantages on many (a stratagem history refutes), but to match the ideals of those early South African disciples of the rule of law Ngcukaitobi chronicles in his book and guarantee to all their deserved access to rights to property and the choices and freedoms that come with them.

The equitable and effective land reform South Africa needs today — and especially, as Ngcukaitobi notes, in the cities — requires nothing less. But no surer way exists to undermine such a project than by emasculating the very principle on which its success depends. — Michael Morris, Institute of Race Relations


Dream to destroy Israel won’t succeed

The letter by Yunus Soomar (“Clover must prepare for a boycott”) comments on the commercial deal of an Israeli company’s proposed takeover of Clover dairies — a deal that would have ensure the continued employment of scores of workers at a time when unemployment is one of the major issues facing out economy.

Soomar tells us that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement works towards a just and peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Surely even he knows that Israel leads the world in dairy technology and how that could benefit our local industry that our malnourished infants in rural areas need so desperately as well as lead to substantial employment.

For Soomar’s information, the Clover deal is a minuscule deal for an Israeli company and the real loser, if the deal falls through, is not Israel but South Africa, at a time when rating agencies are all posting negative reports turning investors from our country, when that investment is so desperately needed.

It’s time for the likes of Soomar and his BDS friends to focus on the real issues facing our country and put the needs of South Africans first. — Alan Lewis, Rosebank


Salmonella: Stop import of Brazilian chickens

The South African government and consumers should be paying close attention to the continuing food safety scandals in Brazil’s meat industry.

Last week, one of Brazil’s biggest food producers, BRF SA, recalled almost 500 tonnes of chicken because of salmonella contamination worries.

Brazil is the major source of the chicken imported into this country. Yet the compliance of Brazil’s poultry producers with food safety standards has been erratic and at times scandalous.

In the latest incident, salmonella contamination forced a major Brazilian chicken producer to recall a batch of chicken destined for local and export markets.

The European Union has already banned 20 Brazilian producers because of salmonella and earlier this year Saudi Arabia blocked five producers, presumably for the same reason.

Brazil was the subject of an international food safety scandal in 2017, when the “Weak Flesh” investigation by Brazilian authorities uncovered fraud and corruption in the beef and chicken industries. Producers either avoided health inspections or paid officials to alter unfavourable results.

An additional cause for concern is that, because of a lack of resources, our health inspections are not as strict as they could be.

I have written to the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries requesting action against Brazilian imports. EU countries refuse to allow Brazilian imports until producers have been clear of salmonella for six months. We should do the same. — Izaak Breitenbach, GM Broiler Organisation, South African Poultry Association

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