The headline in the Star, a venerable old Johannesburg newspaper, is about the fight between the Minister of Mines who says “No nationalization in my lifetime,” and the young bucks calling her a liar and accusing her of telling them one thing in private and another in public. In the colorful journalism of Africa, they accuse the Minister of lying to placate investors attending the Indaba Conference in Cape Town. According to the young bucks in the communist wing of the ANC, the Minister promised in private meetings to move forward with nationalization of the mines, or at least move to majority government ownership.
The international press is more diplomatic, reporting:
Nationalisation of South Africa’s mines is not government policy, and is unlikely to be adopted any time soon, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said on Tuesday, rejecting calls from the ANC’s youth wing. The militant youth wing of the ruling African National Congress reiterated on Monday it would push for the nationalisation of local industries starting with mines, saying investors afraid of the process were not welcome. Shanbangu said even though the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress, had not discussed nationalisation of mines, it was a sign of democracy to have the debate “out there” as a form of intellectual discourse.
Or in the words of local journalists:
The row over an African National Congress (ANC) Youth League proposal to nationalise SA’s mines escalated yesterday with the league accusing Mining Minister Susan Shabangu of lying after she reassured investors it would not happen in her lifetime. The league, which on Monday said it had started talks with the industry on the state owning 60% of new mines, criticised Shabangu as “disingenuous” and “dishonest” and said she backed its stance. “In our internal discussion with minister Shabangu, she said that she does not disagree with the ANC Youth League, but because she is now trying to impress imperialists, she changes her tone,” said spokesman Floyd Shivambu.
As an investor, I have no truck with democratic intellectual discourse. Particularly when it comes from young communists. They have a way of growing older and taking over the reigns of power and implementing their scary “democratic philosophies.” The Minister may be right about her lifetime, but that may be shorter rather than longer in a country where the murder rate is extraordinary. I want dividends, not coffins, or tickets to socialism.
The mood amongst the whites I talk to here in Johannesburg is grim. They are lost in fear of a slide to Zimbabwe as the cronies surround the honeypots and fail to nurture the bees. They are terrified the Rand will be one hundred to the dollar, not ten or so as now—they see their savings for old age and for educating children evaporate in the Africanization of the mining industry. Even people my age are talking of emigrating and leaving behind those Illovo mansions in which they luxuriate. They fear for the future of their married children and the young grandchildren.
On the other side of the racial spectrum is the young colored engineer who told me “I love South Africa and I am making plenty of money to support of all my whole family.” Then there are the two black men who started as messengers in the company forty years ago, now run the building maintenance, and look forward to their retirement to be enjoyed in the houses they have paid for, in the cars they own, and in the pride of their children who are completing degrees in engineering at the University of Johannesburg.
The old British lady who has been here thirty years summed it up: “I have always been optimistic about South Africa, even in the worst years of apartheid. I am still optimistic when I look around and see the success of so many people who previously had nothing. The black politicians are no worse than those Dutchmen of yore, or the people in Washington.” Maybe, but that is not a good reason to invest. A bit of caution, and many opportunities elsewhere lead you to the conclusion: “Why bother? Go where it is safe and the political system is predictable. Leave Africa to the Africans.”
Fact is I am afraid of the process, and accept that I am not welcome. Afterall there is no mining in or remotely near Cape Town and there are lots of politiicans. Indaba may be an exercise in wonderland (or Disney irreality) being so far from the mines of South Africa. To a young communist, the luxury of those attending the conference from far away and with lots of money, must make the dream of grabbing the riches of the Transvaal and the Bafokeng Tribe (who are not Zulus or Xhosas) seem irresistable. It is going to be a nasty fight and I, for one, am not about to invest in the outcome.