Nationalisation of mines
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Nationalisation of mines
NATIONALISATION OF MINES – A LAY PERSON’S PERSPECTIVE
byBrownSuga Shandu on Friday, July 29, 2011 at 9:56am ·
Back in the years, when I was still doing my Matric at Inhlakanipho High School I
bunked a mathematics class and that day the teacher (well, the educator, so that I
am contemporary, and not reveal my age) started a new lesson on “Sequences and
Series”. I have regretted not attending that class till today. This has haunted me
even in my later studies more especially in Business Science in the module of
Operations Research. You see, when one misses the beginning of
something…anything…one hardly keeps up with the conversations, debates or
arguments pertaining to that subject. The reason for that is because one has been
deprived of the opportunity to take off from the basis, from the foundation that
forms the fundamentals of the subject.
As BrownSuga, I and probably a few million other learned South Africans, have
missed the very beginning of the debate surrounding the Nationalisation of Mines, as
advocated by the African National Congress Youth League, but there is no way that I
am going to wait until it haunts me at a later stage, like the introductory “Sequences
and Series”. I want, together with everyone else who is in the same boat with me, to
try and be part of this debate and be comfortable in the engagement. It would be
interesting to be able to contribute informed and academic views on the matter, as a
South African citizen. Maybe the best way to achieve this would be to take off from
where the debate is right now…in order to determine our point of departure in our
attempt to reach the point of necessary comprehension that would allow us
acceptable unreserved participation in the debate, going forward (pardon me, I
could not miss out on an opportunity to say “going forward” as I have observed how
fashionable the expression is, these days…almost in every meeting I attend).
It is a known fact that the ANCYL under the leadership of Julius Malema (I really
envy this young man…he has become the second most popular person in the media
circles, these days) is the champion of this topic. Now, one wonders why the ANCYL
and not the mother body itself. Well, that is one other matter that confuses us, the
lay people, even more. We are not only aware of the fact that the Youth League is
championing this, but we are also aware of the fact that the ANC is completely mum
on the issue. Maybe, during the course of this excursion we will also establish what
the position of the other alliance partners is regarding the matter. We would also
ascertain where the Youth League is coming from and where exactly it is going. In
the process we are also interested in finding out why there is resistance and where
exactly it is coming from. Okay, okay, first things first.
Having created a classroom situation it would be best to have a similar perspective
on the concepts that we want to deliberate on. According to the Oxford Dictionary of
English (anyone who is a regular consumer of my material will be excused for being
convinced that I am paid to market this “world’s most trusted dictionary” because I
always use it as a reference. The truth of the matter is, firstly, I started using it
during my freshman days at the University whilst still struggling with English 1 and I
have kind of become used to it and, secondly, because it is the only English
dictionary I have), “nationalize” means “transfer (a major branch of commerce or
industry) from private to state ownership or control”. Now we are all clear that what
the Youth League is proposing is that all the “mines” should be owned and
controlled by the Government.
If we indulge in a little research we learn that surface workers on South African
mines earn roughly R1500 (US$221.57 at the present R/$ rate - 26th July 2011)
while underground workers earn R3000 (US$433.13), figures which have not
changed much since 2005. Research further reveals that the average wage of a
Canadian mine worker in 2005 was US$2607per month (available at
Worldsalaries.org). This is 6 times more than what a South African mine worker
earns in 2011, yet the Canadians earned it in 2005. A ton of Gold currently brings in
US$51 632 000 and Platinum generates US$57 312 000 (according to the current
26th July 2011 commodities figures). I cannot even begin to remove the dollar sign
here and make the rand the subject of the formula because the figure will just
become astronomical. One would justifiably ask why I would want to do that. It’s
simple; this is a product that was mined in South Africa, with South African
expenses, so it must be measured in Rand terms. Well let me stifle the urge to
bombard you with figures that have to do with what mineral commodities account
for in total exports and all that nonsense. What we may observe though is that it is
quite strange, given these staggering export figures, that such a wealthy country
have the issues of unemployment, poverty, disease, homelessness and crime
assume equally staggering proportions. Well, lest we become accused of assuming a
position, let us proceed with our excursion. We now know what nationalisation
means and we have a clear view of what would happen in actualization of the
contemplation. In fact, we now know the significance, in economic terms, of this
sector in the country.
If we take a step back and inspect the Freedom Charter, not exactly the terrain I am
familiar with, (ok, go ahead and raise your eyebrows –as this unexpected declaration
reveals how less informed I am, politically). Somewhere in this charter there is
something about the people of this land (country) owning every resource that
obtains in it. I know it is not put like that in the Charter but it says something to this
effect. In its Polokwane resolution (52nd National Conference, 16-20 December
2007), the ANC concluded its booklet on Strategy and Tactics by adopting:
Chapter 9: Clause 224. During the First Decade of Freedom, we were able to
consolidate and deepen our democratic system and introduce critical programmes
for social transformation. The progress we have made is commendable; and the
decisive actions in the early years of the Second Decade of Freedom hold out the
promise of faster progress towards our ideals. But we are only at the beginning of a
protracted process of change.
225. The ANC celebrates the end of the first century of its existence wielding political
power –a critical platform to improve the quality of life of South Africans and
contribute to building a better world. The strategic task remains the same. But the
environment in which it has to be pursued has changed significantly for the better.
226. In this phase of national democratic transformation, the ANC commits itself to
intensifying its work around five pillars of social transformation:
Ideological struggle, and
The above clauses are not exactly a show of, on the part of the author, they are
meant to establish the point of departure of the Youth League. Whatever the Youth
League does, it must never deviate from the policies of the mother-body. Before we
get to that let us look at three issues that may be identified as the real impediments
on the side of the ANC when it comes to the nationalisation of mines.
Firstly, a number of myths have emerged about the South African economy, much of
these stem from the ideological desire by the ruling class, particularly during the
Mbeki terms in the presidency, to perpetuate neo-liberalism, to reverse the gains by
the working class and to commodify even the most basic services such as health,
education, electricity supply, water, transport and housing. [David van Wyk, Debate
on Nationalising the Mines in South Africa].
Secondly, South Africa –presently one of the world’s most unequal societies (and
arguably getting poorer in real terms), is constructed around a political economy
that is defined by the resource seeking corporations, and managed by a revenue
seeking (landlord) government. [Khadija Sharife, Why Nationalising Mines in South
Africa will not work].
Lastly, there is a question of the notorious Minerals and Petroleum Resources
Development Act (Act 28 of 2002). MPRDA brought mineral rights under state
control, therefore it is not necessary to nationalize mines, as this piece of legislation
means that all South Africans through state ownership of the mineral rights already
share in the wealth of the mining industry.
The above three paragraphs at least give us the idea as to why the mother body
does not become a “hot head”, when the topic of nationalisation comes up, as it is
customary for it when it comes to any other issues raised by their offspring. One can
only surmise that there are some surreptitious meetings between the organisation’s
strategists with a desired end of overcoming, if not sidestepping, the above hurdles.
This is me now thinking out loud and I would not appreciate being quoted. My
thoughts are based on the fact that having read both the 52nd National Conference
Report, Polokwane, 16-20 December, as well as the booklet with a title “Building a
National Democratic Society”, Strategy and Tactics, adopted at the same conference,
there is not a single word which spells m-i-n-e-s or which spells n-a-t-i-o-n-a-l-i-s-e.
I don’t think that this is a matter of serendipity. It is very much deliberate. Whoever
wrote these articles was painstakingly conscious that these two words were
acatalectically omitted. Well, your guess is as good as mine. I am no politician. I
only commentate on what people do or do not do, and that’s it. I leave the why’s
and the why not’s to the accredited, if not self-proclaimed analysts.
Maybe for the benefit of people like myself, I would like to take a rain check on the
stance adopted, if there is a stance at all, by the two alliance partners –COSATU and
the SACP –in this matter. This is a deliberate move on my part as I have a very
limited attention span and I do not want to lose track of what I have gained from
this brief. I am also creating an excuse to deliberate on the same topic with a focal
point now on the remaining two tripartite partners, at a later stage. I therefore
would like to look at what we refer to as the terminus a quo, in the circles of
academia, of the ANCYL. If time permits we will also try and speculate on the
consequences that would be borne by the realization of their contemplation.
Back in August 1953, Prof ZK Mathews formally suggested convening a Congress of
the People (not to be confused with the present day COPE…by the way, are they still
in existence, COPE, I mean?) acronymmed C.O.P. to draw up the Freedom Charter.
The idea was adopted by the allies of the ANC, the South African Indian Congress,
the South African Coloured People’s Organisation and the South African Congress of
Democrats. The Congress of the People was not a single event but a series of
campaigns and rallies, huge and small, held in houses, flats, factories, kraals, on
farms and in the open. The National Action Council enlisted volunteers to publicize
the C.O.P, educate the people, note their grievances and embark on a “million
signatures campaign”. Thus when the people met on the 25th and 26th June 1955,
in Kliptown, near Johannesburg, represented a historical moment in establishing a
new order based on the will of the people. Blah, blah, blah, blah…the charter was
subsequently endorsed by the C.O.P.
When we look at the Charter, there is a pre-amble, of course, and then some
declarations. For the purposes of this paper we shall focus on the third declaration.
THE PEOPLE SHALL SHARE IN THE COUNTRY’S WEALTH!
The national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall
restored to the people;
The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and the monopoly industry shall be
transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;
All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people;
All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to
enter all trades, crafts and professions.
I guess we will have to leave the Freedom Charter right there and come back to our
argument. To me, it looks like the Youth League has a case. I would hastily like to
point out that the case of the youth is actually against the ANC. A closer look at the
Polokwane report, resolution 3, addressing the Economic Transformation, we
establish that it actually talks to the Freedom Charter. Paragraph 7 of this resolution
reads: “The skewed patterns of ownership and production, the spatial legacies of our
apartheid past and the tendencies of the economy towards inequality, dualism and
marginalization will not recede automatically as economic growth accelerates.
Therefore, the decisive action is required to thoroughly and urgently transform the
economic patterns of the present order to realize our vision for the future. This
includes addressing the monopoly domination of our economy, which remains an
obstacle to the goals of economic transformation, growth and development”.
Ahaa…! So, this is where the youth is coming from. It is worrying to note even a
semblance of consternation from the Government at the call of the Youth League.
Malema et al would love to move onto the next item on the ANC’s agenda but it
looks like some believe that this is Malema’s agenda. I say it definitely is not. It is an
agenda which was formulated as far back as 1955. In fact it was formulated by boys
and girls who were as young as the youth of today and it is intriguing to note that it
is their present day peers who have the audacity of grabbing the bull by its horns
and do what those who have grown old and soft are afraid to do.
My fellow students, I guess we do qualify as students, even if by default, I am no
economist and I don’t know what the consequences of nationalising the mines and,
at a later stage, the banks, would do to the country’s GDP. I have heard a complaint
in the past about parastals like SAA, Eskom, Railways, and the like being inefficient
and lacking in the quest for economic motive and all that being attributed to them
being State-run. I know as well that there is no single day that a flight does not
leave King Shaka International for OR Tambo International, or the entire South
Africa becomes a blanket of darkness, or that trains have come to a grinding halt, as
a result of these parastatals being controlled by the state. So, for me the argument
that nationalising mines would result to a complete collapse of the South African
economy does not exactly hold.
If my little boy, King Ayavuya, rightfully owns a toy –say a remote-controlled model
helicopter- but because of age and lack of experience cannot operate it, it would be
unfair of me or anybody to give it to the boy next door to derive benefits (pleasure)
out of it. If anything, I would request him (the boy next door) to play with it
together with Ayavuya until the latter becomes an expert as well. It belongs to him
I sincerely hope that this throws some light in the debate and it also brings us at par
with the so-called experts, analysts, economists and politicians and whenever we
find ourselves in an unenviable position of having to make a meaningful contribution
when the above-mentioned fundis are indulging their egos by engaging on the topic
at those unlikely (but usually so) places like taverns, hair-salons (I wonder if girls
discuss such matters at all) and sports fields.
I always assume a different perspective altogether when it comes to arguments. I
strongly believe that one should air one’s views about the topic if one is fairly
conversant with the issues. Again one should engage in the debate solely for
enrichment purposes. One’s own enrichment or the other party’s. Arguments for me
should always leave one with a positive sense of satisfaction and should never leave
one morose and feeling drained and inferior. It is not every time that we as people,
friends, siblings and colleagues agree on a point. Sometimes we have to agree to
disagree (lol…that’s quite an old one…even before the Freedom Charter).
Oh…please shut up BrownSuga and give us some references and
Researched, Googled, Cut and Pasted, Written and Narrated By: BrownSuga
Bibliography: Debate on Nationalising the Mines in South Africa, David van Wyk.
The Africa Report, Khadija Sharife.
52nd National Conference Report, Polokwane Dec 2007, ANC.
Building a National Democratic Society, Strategy and Tactics, ANC.
African National Congress Constitution, as amended, Polokwane, ANC.
The Freedom Charter, 1955.
Oxford Dictionary of English.