Today’s report on the battle to nationalize South Africa’s mine states in part:
De Beers, which mines diamonds in Botswana and Namibia in partnership with the governments of those countries, “seems to be refusing that the people of South Africa benefit from mining of diamonds,” the ANC Youth League said in a statement yesterday.
The league’s leader, Julius Malema, 28, is pushing the ruling party to adopt a policy of seizing mining assets to spread wealth in South Africa, the biggest producer of platinum, ferrochrome and manganese.
“De Beers should not be misled by Susan Shabangu, but should begin to design models of engagement with the state in the same manner they did in Botswana” and Namibia, the Youth League said. “In South Africa, De Beers should begin to adjust to giving away 60 percent of its ownership and control of mining.”
This is but the tip of the vast, slow floating iceberg that is the emergence of what some call the new South Africa. I am intrigued by the age, 28, of the young man leading the charge. And the alarm in the old white guard resisting him through the Minister of Mines.
I have been in Johannesburg the past few days and have been honored to meet a number of young, black engineers. Their intelligence and compentence is manifest. Though young, they are clearly as confident and able as I know I thought I was at the same age. They are at least as smart and eager to change the world as we were so many years ago.
Thus in spite of the wailings of so many old white men about the supply of skilled engineers, I must conclude there is no need to despair: the world will change to reflect the times and the people who will make the times. As has ever been the case, the old will resist and resort to dreams of how it was when they were young.
The result may be the triumph of a 28-year old and the nationalization of South Africa’s mines. It may be the triump of the 31-year old engineer who, like those of my days, dreamed of founding new companies and suceeded to immense wealth gained from the private mining industry.
It may be the ongoing conversion of northern Johannesburg to a pale simulacrum of Las Vegas–the casino we ate in last night would fit in perfectly on the Strip. Or it may be the spiral of all the country to a simulacrum of Harare and its desperation.
It is inevitable when you see the glitz of the cars and the glitter of the buildings founded on mining wealth that some young man is going to seek a way to “spread” the wealth and alleviate the needs of the masses who still walk that patient plod along the sidewalks (pavement.) We can argue ideas in open debate. But change will have to accelerate or …..and we hesitate to contemplate the outcome.
Thus we leave Johannesburg both encouraged and concerned. Its fate is truly in the hands of the young blacks. The only question is which of them will prevail. And as miners, whither the mines? And as investors, whence the money?