/ 30 October 2009

‘We want the mines’

Nationalising the mines is just the first step for the ANC Youth League. Matuma Letsoalo tackled the league’s secretary general, Vuyiswa Tulelo, on the details

How confident are you that your calls for nationalisation will be endorsed by the ANC and the government?
We are very confident that the ANC government will endorse nationalisation. We had a progressive engagement with the national working committee of the ANC on nationalisation three weeks ago. No one in that meeting said they disagreed with us.

Which sectors of the economy are you targeting?
For now we are thinking of mining as a primary objective. Later we will look at other sectors, including state-owned enterprises, especially rail and energy. The mining sector is just the first phase.

The mining sector alone is valued at R2-trillion. How is the government expected to raise the money for nationalisation when revenues are falling?
You will know that the mineral resources belong to the government. The government can use different strategies to get this done. We can learn from the partnerships between government and mining companies in countries such as Namibia and Botswana.

Some have dismissed your call as a strategy to bail out struggling BEE companies within the mining industry.
We never asked for the nationalisation of BEE companies. We want all mines, irrespective of who the owners are, to be nationalised. This will assist us to address issues of free education, job creation and delivery of services.

Do you think government will consider the ANCYL’s calls for nationalisation, given the difficult economic environment?
They are considering it. The issue is how best to achieve this consideration.

Have you engaged government on this?
We have been engaging both the government and the ANC.

How are you aiming to promote the nationalisation campaign from now on?
We have already started and will continue to engage other stakeholders outside the ANC. We are talking to people who are in the mining industry. We will also engage workers and the broader society so that they understand the importance of our call for nationalisation.

What support do you have within the ANC on nationalisation?
The support is overwhelming. The only thing that leaders of the ANC consistently warn us about is the manner in which we raise the issue. They are more worried about the posturing, not the content. They agree with what we are saying, but the manner in which we raise the matter is a problem.

Does President Jacob Zuma support the idea?
He is not going to be the one who says no if the ANC says yes. We had a discussion with him about the issue and he never said he disagreed with us.

ANCYL president Julius Malema recently remarked that the youth league would not campaign for any ANC leader to be re-elected during the party’s 2012 conference if they did not declare their support for nationalisation publicly. Can you expand on this?
I can’t answer for something that was raised by the youth league president. You should ask him. When and if the league takes a position on a particular matter, we would pronounce that in public.

Some leaders within the ANC have argued that the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act returns ownership of mineral deposits to the state. Is this not enough in your view?
That’s not enough. It’s different from owning the whole company. We are unable to have beneficiation programmes because the state does not own the mines. We asked the ANC to move away from owning mineral rights only.

How do you envisage nationalisation would be carried out — through compensating mining companies or by seizure?
We have asked the government to put mining licences on hold until we review and say how we ­follow up on existing mines.

So you are not calling for nationalisation of the existing mines?
Not as an immediate response. But our position is that all mines should ultimately be nationalised.

Some economic analysts have argued that any attempt to nationalise will chase away investors in the country.
Those economists must ask why there is such a high investment in Botswana and Namibia when their mines are nationalised.

Should we refer to the Botswana arrangement as nationalisation or a partnership between the government and mining companies?
It’s nationalisation because the state controls the mines.

Most state-owned enterprises have performed poorly in the past, so why does the ANCYL believe the state would be able to run the mines properly?
If we put a priority on how parastatals are run, they will be run properly. We have not paid sufficient attention because they are state-owned. But if you give people performance contracts, they will be forced to do better.