/ 8 August 2011

Ramaphosa: Mines ‘not transforming as agreed’

Ramaphosa: Mines 'not Transforming As Agreed'

Business leaders must bear part of the blame for a call to nationalise South Africa’s mines, according to National Planning Commission deputy chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa.

“The mining companies got together with the ministry and agreed on a transformation charter,” Ramaphosa said in an address at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg.

“Nearly all of them have not lived up to that transformation agenda. They planted seeds of dissension for the future. It is only now that the mining industry is waking up and saying: ‘Wow, maybe we should have done certain things to forestall this’,” he was quoted as saying in the Business Report on Monday.

Calls for the government to seize mines, banks and land are being made by the ANC Youth League, saying South Africa’s black majority still does not have an adequate stake in the country’s economy.

The ANC agreed in November to an independent study of whether nationalisation is viable and to debate the findings of the study next year.

The nationalisation drive stemmed from “a measure of deep frustration by young people, who are unemployed”, Ramaphosa said.

“They see these big corporations raking in a lot of money, and they also see that these corporations are not transforming in the way that was agreed,” he said.

His comments follow an impassioned op-ed in the Sunday Times on Sunday calling for mines to do more for their communities and for transformation.

“Much as we understand that poverty and unemployment are rooted in decades of economic injustice, so too must we accept that the frustration being witnessed today arises in part from our collective inability to sufficiently transform our economy. This inability has certainly sparked the call for the nationalisation of mines,” he argued.

“White men continue to dominate top management and technical positions and earn much more than their black counterparts.

The mining industry needs to own up to these shortcomings, as do government and other stakeholders. They need to focus greater effort and apply greater urgency to meeting these objectives, not merely to forestall any move towards nationalisation, but because transformation is an economic, social and moral imperative.”

While he applauded the league’s “enthusiasm” for economic freedom, he cautioned against a narrow focus on nationalisation.

“I believe that the objectives the youth league seeks to achieve can be achieved in better, less costly, less value destructive and smarter ways than through nationalisation.

We should learn from many countries that have tried this option and failed. Successful countries have always shied away from reinventing a wheel that does not move.”

But he said the country should continue the discussion, in a mature and constructive fashion.

“Amid the sharp (and sometimes shrill) public commentary on nationalisation, the greatest mistake we can make is to ignore the concerns [the league] are raising, because they go to the heart of the issues that we need to be grappling with.” — Sapa and M&G