Nationalising mines is not a government priority, a member of President Jacob Zuma’s executive has told the Mail & Guardian. And Chamber of Mines chief executive Mzolisi Diliza has warned against allowing ideological battles in the ANC-led alliance to dominate debates on nationalising the country’s key economic assets.
”Our key strategic agenda at the moment is to maintain the infrastructure development and grow the economy to create decent jobs,” the executive member said. ”Nationalisation is definitely not on the agenda.”
ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema urged Zuma last week to fast-track the implementation of the Freedom Charter, which calls for the country’s mineral wealth to be transferred to the ownership of the people.
”The calls for nationalisation must be reasonable, not ideological,” Diliza said. And in the current economic crises, the government is unlikely to consider calls to nationalise key economic assets, he said, pointing out that the mining industry alone is worth more than R2-trillion.
”How is the government expected to raise the money to take over the industry while there are more pressing issues that require its attention?” Diliza asked. ”Besides, what is it that the state will do better that is not done by the private sector to run the mines? ”The executive member questioned the timing of Malema’s call, saying the intention was partly driven by a strategy to bail out BEE companies within the industry that are struggling to survive. ”We know 80% of the BEE deals in the industry are under pressure,” he said.
”The government cannot afford to rescue capitalists by putting citizens in debt. If we take over the mines, we will carry the pain of retrenchments while the companies make billions of rands out of taxpayers’ money,” he said.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe publicly opposed Malema’s call, insisting that the party had no plans to nationalise mines and that decisions taken at an ANC national conference ”cannot be changed as we wish”. But, pressured by the ANCYL and its alliance partners, the ruling party made an about-turn this week and said nationalisation was open to debate.
Young Communist League spokesperson Castro Ngobese said this week the government had used legislation giving the state control of mineral resources to transfer wealth to a few individuals such as Patrice Motsepe, Saki Macozoma and Tokyo Sexwale. ”Our people have not had control whatsoever of our mines,” he said. ”It has been the state elite and its black and white business partners that have control over our mines.”
‘From the white elite to the black elite by the state elite’
Matuma Letsoalo asked Young Communist League chairperson David Masondo about its call for the nationalisation of mines
The ANC has challenged you by saying there is legislation that returns ownership of mineral deposits to the state.
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act is not nationalisation. It is essentially a tool to transfer mining equity from the white elite to the black elite by the state elite.
Is nationalisation feasible given the global economic meltdown?
This is the most appropriate time to nationalise the mines and banks. This will ensure that the state does not depend solely on the whims of private individuals to generate funds for its industrial strategy and social programmes such as free education.
Our mining industry is worth more than R2-trillion.
Our mines must be transferred back to us without any compensation. Business has no moral authority whatsoever to claim a cent for transferring what belongs to the people. And if they refuse to hand over these mines, they must be forced to do so.
Most state-owned enterprises have performed poorly.
It is up to the public through its democratically elected representatives to ensure that they appoint competent people to manage these companies.
Won’t the calls for nationalisation chase investors away?
Investment for what and for whom? Investors must invest on our own terms and we must have control over the dividends of our work and resources.