Nationalisation of mines unlikely, says minister

Nationalisation of South Africa’s mines is not government policy and is unlikely to become so, at least in the immediate future, the country’s trade minister said on Wednesday.

The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) has called for the nationalisation of mines, worrying some investors in Africa’s biggest economy. South Africa is the world’s biggest platinum producer and the world’s number three gold producer.

“It’s not by any means remotely government policy,” Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told Reuters on the sidelines of a United Kingdom-South Africa business forum held in London.

Asked if it could ever become government policy, he said: “I don’t think it’s imminently so and I think it’s unlikely to become so, in the immediate future anyway.”

A dozen Cabinet ministers and 200 business executives are accompanying South African President Jacob Zuma on a state visit to Britain. Zuma also said on Tuesday it was not ANC policy to nationalise the mining sector.

Mining Minister Susan Shabangu repeated on Wednesday that nationalisation was not government policy and said that ANCYL leader Julius Malema must present his position at the ANC’s national general council.

“The policy of nationalisation doesn’t exist in South Africa,” she told the business forum.

South Africa was a democratic country and an open society and everyone had “the right to raise any aspect under the sun”, she said.

Part of global community
“But … South Africa is part of the global world, it’s part of the global community, and on the basis of that, South Africa cannot go back and work against the world,” she said to applause from business executives in the audience.

Davies told Reuters that South Africa had a very strong relationship with Britain but bilateral trade had been hit by the recession.

“In fact all the progress that we made in 10 years of the previous decade [in two-way trade] was wiped out with the recession, so in the first instance we’ve got to rebuild those trade relations,” he said.

“We want to diversify our exports to the UK. Our basket is still too dominated by mineral products, not value-added products on a sufficient scale,” he said.

Davies said South Africa was building relations with emerging economic powers such as China, India and Brazil, but said this did not exclude traditional partners such as Britain.

“We all have to realise there’s been some seismic shifts in the structure of the world economy … The crisis has accentuated and accelerated those and we now find there are more players on the African continent. We welcome that, it gives us diversity and choice,” he said.

British Trade Minister Mervyn Davies told Reuters he saw huge opportunities for growing British trade with Africa, and particularly with South Africa.

British firms had the expertise to collaborate in areas such as offshore wind power or nuclear energy, he said.

South Africa plans to build a number of nuclear plants to plug its power deficit and reduce its carbon footprint. — Reuters

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Adrian Croft
Adrian Croft works from London, England. Reuters sub-editor in London. Previously Reuters European Defence Editor in Brussels and before that reported from UK, Spain, U.S., Latin America, South Africa. Adrian Croft has over 929 followers on Twitter.

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