From the edi­tor


Finweek English Edition - - Contents -

call me op­ti­mistic, but I think we should save some praise for the much­ma­ligned min­is­ter of min­eral re­sources and Gupta ally Mosebenzi Zwane. The man may in­ad­ver­tently man­age to suc­ceed where op­po­si­tion par­ties, ANC dis­si­dents, civil so­ci­ety and the #Gup­taLeaks won’t.

Let me ex­plain. Ever since Bill Clin­ton stuck to his “It’s the econ­omy, stupid!” guns in the 1992 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, politi­cians in democ­ra­cies around the world know that ca­reers are built – and de­stroyed – on the back of the elec­torate’s eco­nomic re­al­i­ties.

I bet James Carville, Clin­ton’s cam­paign man­ager in 1992, who coined the now­fa­mous phrase, would take one look at the state of the South African econ­omy and pre­dict that the Ja­cob Zuma camp won’t stand a chance in De­cem­ber’s ANC elec­tions. Logic dic­tates that peo­ple will vote against a leader who brought them an un­em­ploy­ment rate of 27.7% (for peo­ple un­der 25, in­clud­ing those who have given up look­ing for work, it is 67.4%), a re­ces­sion and credit rat­ing down­grades.

I sus­pect the Zuma camp has its own con­cerns about pla­cat­ing the elec­torate about the econ­omy, which brings me back to Zwane. My view is that the Zuma camp ex­pected a back­lash from in­dus­try play­ers about the Min­ing Char­ter’s steep new em­pow­er­ment re­quire­ments, but that it was hop­ing for praise from its core sup­port base, no­tably the unions and min­ing com­mu­ni­ties. Who, after all, dis­agrees that we need more trans­for­ma­tion in the sec­tor, more jobs and money flow­ing to lo­cal sup­pli­ers and com­mu­ni­ties, and more as­sis­tance for black en­trepreneurs to get in­volved in the sec­tor?

But boy, did it back­fire. In a his­toric first, Zwane didn’t just get dragged to court by the Cham­ber of Mines, but slammed by NUM and Amcu, two trade unions who have never agreed on any­thing. NUM – sup­pos­edly an ANC ally – even called for Zwane’s head to roll. Zwane’s planned road­show to show­case the new Char­ter, shortly after its un­veil­ing in June, came to an abrupt stop when he was booed at a com­mu­nity meet­ing in Mid­del­burg, Mpumalanga. As I write this on 16 Au­gust, zama za­mas and af­fected min­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers are march­ing to the depart­ment of min­eral re­sources to call for the im­me­di­ate scrap­ping of the Char­ter, among other is­sues.

Let that sink in for a sec­ond – even the il­le­gal min­ers are so fed-up with this gov­ern­ment that they’re protest­ing in the streets of Pre­to­ria. I’m no James Carville, but Zuma and his min­ions bet­ter watch out. We’re not a na­tion of fools. ■

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