Nationalisation up for grabs

The ANC in the provinces has followed to some degree the call of the ANC Youth League to nationalise the mines. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The ANC in the provinces has followed to some degree the call of the ANC Youth League to nationalise the mines. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

But said it should not be crudely implemented.

This week, several ANC provinces concluded that, although wholesale nationalisation was not the best option, they believed that a more aggressive approach was needed to transform the economy. The ANC Youth League has led the campaign for nationalisation.

The ANC in Gauteng, the Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape said they did not have any problems with nationalisation, but were opposed to its crude implementation. The ANC’s research team into state intervention in the minerals sector has proposed a 50% super-tax on all profits from mining companies and a reduction of royalties from 4% to 1%.


Some party members argue the research team ignored the terms of reference of its investigation, which clearly stated that it should probe different models of nationalisation, rather than finding reasons not to implement the radical policy.

The issue is likely to dominate debates as the ANC formulates policy for the party’s national conference in Mangaung in December.

Radical approach
Limpopo has reiterated its support for an even more radical approach to economic transformation – that the  mines should be nationalised without compensation.

Following its provincial general congress in Limpopo last week, chairperson Cassel Mathale, an ally of former youth league leader Julius Malema, said his province would not support an ANC leadership thatdid not support their radical policy positions.

“We are convinced that the struggle for economic emancipation will require a revolutionary ANC prepared to confront white monopoly capital and its compradorial allies amongst the historically oppressed. We will therefore approach the election of [the] leadership collective based on its revolutionary commitment to lead our people towards economic emancipation, for we are convinced that there is no revolution without revolutionary organisation and leadership,” the province stated in a statement.

Limpopo has been the most vocal opponent of the current ANC leadership and will support Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe as its preferred presidential candidate in December.

President Jacob Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal resolved that it would support the nationalisation of mines only if other strategic sectors, such as banks, were nationalised. KwaZulu-Natal is the ANC’s largest province and will contribute about 25% of the total number of voting delegates at Mangaung.

No conclusive evidence
ANC Mpumalanga provincial secretary Lucky Ndinisa said on Thursday that its provincial general congress last weekend resolved that the state must identify some mines to be nationalised. There was no conclusive evidence to suggest that it will be more beneficial to take control of all mines, he said.

“The ANC in its national general congress resolved to undertake a study into wholesale nationalisation of mines. It [the report], in our view, did not show clear ways or means to convince us to nationalise completely,” said Ndinisa.

But this did not rule out the possibility of wholesale nationalisation in the future, rather that the state should test the theory with a few mines to see whether it could be successful. “Depending on our experience, after a few years government can take it all, but right now we can’t take that risk,” Ndinisa said.

ANC chairperson in the North West, Supra Mahumapelo, said a provincial general council would be convened next week where a final position would made. He said the “sentiment” was that the state needed to have a bigger stake in the mining sector, but that wholesale nationalisation was too risky.

Mahumapelo said the province  was instead likely to propose that the state should have between 30% and 45% ownership of strategic mineral resources.

Demand for production
“The state must have a hold on the strategic mineral resource like platinum, manganese and coal, which in the long term will be extremely useful. It must be driven by the demand for production,” Mahumapelo said.

“Certain mines must be under the control of government. It must play a role in identifying a few which must be taken over. But it should be a gradual process and should not be done overnight.”

Meanwhile, Gauteng agreed to similar proposals about nationalisation. Its provincial chairperson, Paul Mashatile, said they would not support wholesale nationalisation.
Mashatile said the province supported the establishment of a state mining house, and added that the state should intervene in all important minerals.

The Western Cape rejected nationalisation but said the state should play a bigger role in the economy.

ANC provincial chairperson Marius Fransman said that the province would propose that the Land Act of 1913 be amended to allow for some communities, such as the indigenous Khoisan who were disposed of their land before 1913, be given an opportunity to reclaim the land that had been stolen from them.

The Eastern Cape and the Free State are yet to take decisions on the policy documents.

Unions anti Zuma on economy
Two big affiliates of trade union federation Cosatu have said they will not give President Jacob Zuma a blank cheque after they endorsed the proposal to nationalise mines and other sectors of the economy, a move to which he is opposed.

Policy issues are being used as a proxy battle for leadership in the ANC and the alliance before the party’s elective conference in Mangaung in December. 

Both the National Union of Metalworkers’ of South Africa (Numsa) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have joined the chorus of those calling for radical policy change in the ANC. Zuma, who regards the trade union movement as one of his key constituencies, has repeatedly insisted there is nothing wrong with the country’s macroeconomic policies.

Although many in the trade union movement appear to have a soft spot for Zuma, they believe he has failed to implement the Polokwane resolutions, seen as friendly to the working class.

During the past few weeks, Zuma has again been on a charm offensive, presenting himself as the product of the trade union movement in addresses to several unions.

Unlike Numsa, which has been openly critical of Zuma’s administration, Nehawu is seen as sympathetic to Zuma. Its general secretary Fikile Majola and Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, who is a Nehawu shop steward, are aligned to a faction, led by South African Communist Party boss Blade Nzimande, that is pushing for Zuma’s second term.

However, over the weekend, ordinary members of Nehawu appeared to hold a different view to that of Dlamini and Majola, not only endorsing nationalisation but also rejecting Zuma’s “second transition” document, which he is using as a campaign ticket for re-election.

The National Union of Mine­workers has spoken out against nationalisation. – Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004.
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