Businessman and National Planning Commission (NPC) deputy chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa laid much of the blame for the current “ferment” around mine nationalisation at the door of the industry, which he said had failed to live up to its transformation promises.
Speaking at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg, in his role as a NPC commissioner, Ramaphosa argued that the nationalisation call arose from a “deep frustration” among young people, who remained unemployed and excluded from the South African economy.
“Today we are confronted by political ferment on an issue such as nationalisation of mines. We need to sit back and say: Where does this thing come from?” Ramaphosa mused.
“It comes from a measure of deep frustration by young people, who are unemployed . . . many of them have never worked. They see these big corporations raking in a lot of money, and they also see that these corporations have not transformed in the way that was agreed,” he lamented.
This effectively led to the planting of “seeds of terrible plants that will come and consume us all”.
Government reported last year that many mining companies had failed to deliver on transformation commitments associated with the Mining Charter.
In fact, the Department of Mineral Resources moved to revise and tighten up on the charter, along with scorecards, in a bid to ensure better compliance.
The department was also now insisting on yearly progress reports on issues as diverse as the meeting of the 26% ownership by historically disadvantaged South Africans target by 2014, the abolition of the mine hostel system by the same date and progress being made on procuring 40% of capital goods from black economically empowered entities and meeting the 40% employment equity target for top management.
“Having not lived up to [the transformation promise], they planted seeds of dissention for the future. Because when you don’t do those things that could be low-hanging fruit, what do you expect?” Ramaphosa said.
“It is only now that the mining industry is waking up and saying: “Wow, maybe we should have done certain things to forestall this campaign.”
Earlier, Business Leadership South Africa’s chairperson Bobby Godsell, who is a former mining company CEO and also a commissioner on the 26-member NPC led by Minister in The Presidency Trevor Manuel, acknowledged there were shortcomings.
But he also stressed that, following the Mining Charter review, “not a single target was revised downwards, or abandoned”. The approach, Godsell stressed, was to accept the reality of underperformance and to seek strategies to improve.
Ramaphosa said that the final NPC report, which would be released on November 11, would address the issues of South Africa’s economic structure and the ownership dynamics of the economy.
He stressed that the commission would report “without fear or favour”, noting President Jacob Zuma had appealed for a “critical” report and for the NPC to put forward suggestions “even if those suggestions may go well against government policy”.
“Will we deal with the issue of nationalisation? Yes, in part we will deal with that, particularly when we deal with the structure of the economy. We are going to deal with the structure of the economy and we are also going to deal with the ownership of the economy. It has become a political football, so we will deal with that without fear, or favour.”
He noted, too, that only three of the commissioners – himself, Manuel and Joel Netshitenzhe – sat on any structure of the governing African National Congress.
“The rest of the commissioners, do not sit on the executive committee of the ruling party and we are, therefore, not behoven to the ruling party. We are behoven to South Africa Inc. What we are doing has to be for the interest of the people of South Africa and we have to go beyond party political interest and we have to go beyond the political ferment that may well be out there,” he concluded.