Sir Richard Branson’s Mont Rochelle Hotel and Vineyard to be Expropriated?
How Sir Richard Branson might surprise the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) threat of expropriation of his Mont Rochelle without compensation. Fictional Memo to EFF from Sir Richard Branson.
Dear Honourable (Commissar) Andile Mngxitama
Thank you for your letter warning me about expropriation without compensation of the Mont Rochelle Hotel and Mountain Vineyards owned by Virgin Limited Edition (VLI) in Franschoek. That is if the EFF come to power.
I must firstly reassure you that we are familiar with expropriation without compensation. It is commonplace in the hotel business and I can’t tell you how many sheets, towels, pictures, cutlery and plants go missing from our establishments.
One hotel owner lost a whole chandelier when a guest dismantled it and smuggled the pieces out in his brief case. Our only crime-free establishment is on my island Nakar where the guests probably think they will be searched on departure.
May I also hasten to add that we do not own that surreally beautiful forty hectares of land in Franschoek. At least not in the same way that we own the business, cars, equipment, vines and buildings. But I give you my word that all these movables are ours and will be disposed of before the expropriation date, using explosives if needs be. They belong to us because we made them ourselves or paid others to make them.
That very precious land was clearly not made by earthlings but the Registrar of Deeds in Cape Town has acknowledged our sovereignty by registering the title deed and survey diagram in our name. This ‘piece of paper’ as you call it is crucial to our investment. We cannot have people trespassing on our property, or sending their cows into the vineyards. So we paid for its exclusive use. The tacit agreement is the state will prevent others from using it and our taxes pay for this protection.
I might add that when the colonial forces subjugated your ancestors there was much debate in Whitehall about introducing land titles into the former Homelands. Suffice to say that if they had done so then, as the Fingoes requested in 1835, people would not now still be fleeing from land held in communal ownership and under the arbitrary rule of chieftains.
In testament to this we can only guess how thoroughly rotten things are out there, without titles, when people choose to escape to the dangerous and degrading rusty corrugated suburbs around South Africa’s towns and cities. There they have to buy food which they could easily grow for themselves and worth ±R3000pm.
Instead they are humiliated through dependence on state grants which would hardly feed a small dog. “Oh if only we were slaves” they must be thinking, contrary to your suggestion.
However untitled land was what the Cape settlers had to cope with in the 1820s. So Governor Craddock, acting on Queen Victoria’s behalf, marked out private farms and plots and issued title deeds for the Registrar to manage. In those days colonialists were granted perpetual quitrent tenures which the monarch was bound to honour.
To describe this as stealing from the Xhosa, Khoi and San is about as silly as Queen Elizabeth accusing Azanian’s of pinching the English language, taking on Westminster’s democratic norms, and playing cricket, football and rugby which her subjects invented. The fact is that the land is still there and cannot be carted off.
So how can it have been stolen?
Yes, VLE has a title deed and it is true that settlers took possession by force just as the Normans conquered England in 1066, and the Zulus took parts of the Transkei and like land has been engrossed everywhere since BC. But in my book we do not own the Franschoek land but merely have a right to its use. Baroness Thatcher described this as a usufruct. That might be because my God, as you call Him, made the earth but His name does not appear on any title deed; He was not a willing seller then, nor now.
That is probably because His land is priceless. In this unfathomable universe all the money in the world cannot add an inch or an ounce to this earth. And, I blush, VLE paid just fifteen years of rent for the land (the going multiple), when it will last till the end of time, probably a billion years.
That is a bargain in any language. You call it theft, but from whom? Frost and Sullivan estimates there are 27 million hectares of unused arable land in South Africa and countless millions of urban plots which could be subdivided, so there is enough land to go around. It’s just the price which hurts.
But income taxes and vat are real robbery, of the armed sort. They hurt more than land prices and when the EFF comes to power you will be fleecing everyone for getting on with their lives; working, innovating, saving, investing and peacefully spending in South Africa.
So let’s get both this land access and theft business out of the way in the event that you win the next election:
1. Without any admission of guilt I am willing to recommend to my board that VLI pay back the current value of our land, excluding improvements, to National Treasury over a fifteen-year period with an option to continue paying for its use thereafter.
2. The conditions precedent are that all other landowners, whether black or white, are put to the same terms. And National Treasury must simultaneously waive all income taxes and vat, starting from the February following the date that EFF comes to power.
You will find these land-use charges (a rates and taxes surcharge) will exceed the national taxes and vat by some 25% because unused land currently pays next to nothing in rates. Also no zoning scheme in the world permits the non-use of land.
The result will therefore be that the price of unused land will drop sharply and so will cost next to nothing to expropriate. Or it will have to be put to use quickly to make the payments. This will create many jobs.
Simultaneously South Africa become a tax haven like Hong Kong. This will stimulate investment and jobs and compensate people for their loss of land revenues
Kindly reply within the month because we have started renovations. That may have to be stopped if your threat is not withdrawn.
pp Peter Meakin, Registered Professional Valuer
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