by Peter Meakin
South African Constitutional Property Rights Foundation

Will Minister Gigaba encourage the trafficking of South Africa’s unemployed to Mozambique?

Realistically, the best chance for South Africa’s 8.5 million jobless is a single bus ticket to Maputo. Work prospects there are unlimited because access to fertile land is free. That alone is a treasure chest; the poor man’s key to the rich life. GDP growth has held at 8% pa since 1996 (2015 IMF Country Report).

Like Hong Kong, the state owns the entire 80m hectares of Mozambique, 3.5ha per family. Users own whatever they grow, rear, build, service or make with their brawn and brain under “use-right” contracts. These are not freeholds but perpetual quitrent tenures, paying pepper-corn rents.

This has brought to an abrupt end Mozambique’s long-running proletarian, landless and inhumane way of life. Inhumane because we are all land animals and when shut-out face destitution and become disturbed. That is the daily consequence facing millions of South Africa’s urban children catching bullets not butterflies.

One drawback is that foreigners in Mozambique cannot become registered lessees for five years. However, South Africans can lease a hectare from a Mozambiquan family and grow food for them in return. One hour of gardening a day on 450sq.m will yield the three tons of food needed to feed a family of four for a year.

Another hour will feed the migrant’s family leaving nearly two rugby fields for earning cash crops. This fresh-air factory floor is where a sow will annually bear 20 piglets, a doe 840 rabbits and vegetables will feed 20 families using low input methods.

To be successful, traffickers must be trained hustlers in convincing their customers how any able-bodied person can become a millionaire in in a few years. Examples abound; in Tete, the United Leaf Company (USA) has “transformed a desperately poor, war-torn part of northern Mozambique into rich farmland by training more than forty thousand black Mozambicans to grow tobacco and other crops for export. These are independent out-growers. The company supplies agricultural inputs and technical back-up.”

In 2009 Douglas Roberts, a Sunday Telegraph feature writer reported from there that:- “peasants who had recently lived in mud huts, dependent on food hand-outs from the West, were now building houses, driving four-by-fours and sending their children to school.”

This is internationally commonplace for small holdings. The best grapes and the finest oranges in the world (and the richest peasants) are also produced on single hectare farms in Bordeaux and Majorca.

However, Mozambique could do better if it increased the pepper corn rents to the point where “every user of land makes an annual payment to government equal to the current rental value of the land that he or she prevents others from using.” This was the recommendation which Nobel Economics prize winners made to President Gorbachev in 1990 when Russia was privatising its economy.

In relying on unearned land rents, rather than hard-earned income taxes and vat, Mozambique will become a tax-haven, like Hong Kong. The latter’s citizens are the second wealthiest in the world, barring the tax-evasion havens and oil rich regimes. So it’s a system that works.

And whilst it is counter-intuitive to tax the fruits of citizens hard-earned work and wealth, the alternative to these taxes, one of the two certainties in life (sic), is to capture the unearned rents, the nation’s common-wealth. These are revenues which bubble up from the land not through any effort of landowners, but because of nature’s endowment as well as state infrastructure, services, governance, secure titles and population growth.

So why not buy a rusty bus and start trafficking South African peasants to Mozambique. And to goad it on ask Mr Gigaba to allow tax rebates to traffickers and continue to pay child allowances to our refugees? Better still let him tax land and not work or wealth in South Africa.