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SPEECH: THE CENTRALITY OF PROPERTY RIGHTS

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It is a great honour for me to address this meeting at this critical time in the evolution of the new South Africa.

Twenty-five years after the inauguration of our new constitutional democracy South Africa is once again facing serious challenges:

  • massive corruption and incompetence; 
  • sluggish economic growth; 
  • mounting social problems; 
  • expropriation without compensation; and 
  • the government’s NHI proposal.

Some critics now charge that our transition to constitutional democracy 25 years ago was a great mistake and that we should never have surrendered power.  Others claim that we could have negotiated a better deal.  Some think that we could have retained some or other minority veto. 

Let me be clear:  if we had not reached a settlement as soon as possible after the collapse of the Soviet Union the balance of forces would have inexorably - and quite quickly - shifted against us. With each passing year we would have been less able to secure our core interests - which is exactly what happened to Ian Smith in Rhodesia. 

Clinging to power was simply not an option.  We could probably have continued to rule South Africa for another 15 to 20 years under increasingly grim circumstances: 

  • We would have been completely isolated.
  • Our economy would have been crippled. 
  • A high percentage of the white population would have emigrated.
  • Our young men would have spent half of every year fighting on the borders or repressing dissent in the townships.
  • Inter-racial animosities would have increased to a level that would have made a mutually acceptable negotiated solution less and less possible with each year that passed.

At the end of the process we would have had to enter into negotiations - but at a time when the balance of forces would have shifted decisively against us.

By Dave Steward: Chairman, FW de Klerk Foundation
8 October 2019

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