The Chamber of Mines said it will apply its mind to the content of a memorandum delivered on Thursday by marching ANC Youth League members.
“We understand that the level of unemployment is too high and we agree with the youth league that the level of poverty is too high,” the chamber’s chief executive Bheki Sibiya told reporters in Johannesburg.
“We will distribute it [the memorandum] to our 55 members.”
He said the Chamber of Mines would engage with its members on the ANCYL’s demands. The chamber had asked the ANCYL for a meeting four weeks before the march but the league did not respond.
“It cannot be a monologue, it must be a dialogue,” said Sibiya.
The league was demanding the nationalisation of mines and the introduction of probation programmes within companies to give youth skills in mining.
The memorandum calls for better wages for mine workers and the active involvement of mining companies in the development of the industry.
The Chamber of Mines agreed with the league’s objectives to reduce poverty and inequality.
However, it did not agree with nationalisation, saying this would severely damage the economy and leave the population in a worse state than before, said Sibiya.
Nationalisation of mines without compensation would destroy investor confidence.
It would fly in the face of bilateral investment protection guarantees South Africa had signed with several countries.
“Nationalisation is like the killing the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said.
“The goose should be left to live so that it [can] more golden eggs which in turn would be distributed equally.”
Nationalisation with or without compensation would always provoke questions.
“If the mines were nationalised with compensation the question is where does the state source the funds when we know it is struggling to extend rail infrastructure,” said Sibiya.
Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola read out the marchers’ full memorandum of demands, including that 60% of all mining activities should be owned by the South African government, and the majority of benefication be undertaken within the country.
“These are not unreasonable demands, so you should accede to them immediately,” Lamula said to Sibiya.
League president Julius Malema told supporters that Sibiya was the face of white capital.
“He is our brother but he himself doesn’t have a mine.” he said,
“Sign now, peacefully,” Malema told Sibiya. “There is no blood on the floor. To prevent the blood, our demands must be met.”
“You see, we are handing over this memo without blood and in peace,” Malema joked, as the memo was handed over.
From deep within the company of marchers, one anonymous supporter’s voice was heard to retort: ‘Tell us if you want blood, comrade — we are ready!”
The youth league embarked on its “economic freedom youth mass action” march on Thursday.
Members started marching from Beyers Naude Square at 12pm to the Chamber of Mines, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
After the memorandum was handed over, the march made its way past the Killarney suburb in northern Johannesburg after 2pm.
The crowd of hundreds heading to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Sandton was led by Malema, who alternated between walking and riding in a van.
Marshals shoved journalists around, while workers came out of offices to watch the peaceful march.
The Democratic Alliance said it was disturbed by reports that the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) had forced pupils from Alexandra and Soweto schools to join the march.
“The DA is appealing to the Gauteng education department … and ANCYL leadership to respect the right of learners to attend school without political disruptions,” DA spokesperson Khume Ramulifho said in a statement.
“It is a critical time for students in Gauteng as many learners are writing final exams.”
The SABC reported earlier that all high schools in Alexandra were empty after community members forced pupils from their classes.
Schooling was also disrupted in Soweto and on the East Rand, with some schools virtually empty, the report said.
The Freedom Front Plus Youth said the march was not the answer to South Africa’s problems.
“The ANC Youth League’s march for so-called economic freedom does not offer solutions for South Africa’s current poverty and unemployment,” spokesperson Wouter Wessels in a statement.
“If the ANCYL wants to rashly continue, their supporters will in the near future be running through the streets due to total impoverishment, a further increase in unemployment and hunger.”
Wessels called the march a “survival tactic” for Malema.
“Malema, in the midst of his disciplinary hearing, wants to prove to the ANC leadership that he enjoys huge support and can successfully mobilise the youth. The participants in these marches have been misled,” he said. — Sapa