From the editor
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. ■