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Nationalisation…it ain’t gonna happen in our lifetime

So, nationalisation will be debated — big deal. When Mandela was released from jail 20 years ago, one of the first PR gaffes to be associated immediately with his name was the claim that the ANC was going to nationalise anything that moves. Typically none of that happened because you cannot take at face value anything a politician says, even if it is Mandela. So he was called aside quickly to be told: “Tata, actually this is not really what we are going to do … lest the markets punish us.”

So to be frank, Julius Malema’s noise is not new. The ANC has not adopted the nationalisation of mines as a policy 20 years on — no prizes for guessing why. The recent chance they had to do this saw them simply postpone the debate to 2012 where, frankly, it will be summarily quashed. They have cynically given permission for the debate to continue so the minister of minerals can again say: “It is not a policy of government — this nationalisation.” She can say this until 2012, whether Julius and his cronies like it or not. It would be foolhardy not to learn a simple lesson: those who attempted to be bigger than the organisation have never succeeded — especially in the ANC. The ANC storybook is full of examples of people like that, people who thought that shooting from the hip would get them somewhere, but I digress.

Nationalising the mines is a lazy and foolish idea that will cause us to go the way of all African countries that forgot the place of the state in a budding economy. All you have to do is glance at the dilapidated African capitals that last got a facelift from the colonial masters before independence. The common denominator of them all was attempted shortcuts to economic recovery. This is what we are being invited to. There is frankly nothing magical about putting something under the state’s control and hoping that this will automatically achieve efficiency and redistribution. Frankly this is banal.

You don’t even have to cross the border to look at collapsing parastatals that have bled the taxpayer dry. How about making the only mine under the state function first before running amok with profitable enterprises. Some children still study under trees and 80% of our schools don’t have libraries and laboratories 16 years after democratic rule. There is no youth league campaign to stop the bleeding parastatals whose CEOs earn more than their counterparts in listed companies. How about getting some of these basics right first fellows?

The ANC youth league is calling for the chaos that often results from fixing that which is not broken. There is the accusation — curiously coming from the communist party — that nationalisation will bankroll failed BEE deals in the mining sector. I do not advise that you hold your breath for a sensible post-matric answer from the youth league about how that is going to be avoided. In 2003, the then minister of minerals and energy suggested that 50% of SA’s mines be owned by blacks and that the royalties be revised at some point to achieve this. Overnight, billions of capital flight from our stock exchange resulted from that ill-timed pronouncement alone, made before any kind of engagement could be concluded with the mining sector.

Today the law requires mining moguls to only give up 26% in 10 years. This pittance of equity is unlikely to be achieved in this lifetime. It simply won’t happen. There is no example in recent history of an insurrection, because that is the only way you can achieve what can only be described as a belated economic revolution. Yes, yes indeed it is a time bomb, but you need a trigger event like a famine or a war to even have something like nationalisation make it to the agenda of any sensible government’s economic framework.

It’s the stuff that the collapsed Soviet Union was made of. The ANC has never pronounced itself a socialist organisation. That is the fight that the youth league must go and have with its mother body, not through misguided nit-pickings … why not banks? Why not farms? Why not forests? What is so magical about mines? The debate over socialism actually is the elephant in the room.

Now this straight talk is what the ANC’s national general council should have told its youth league instead of egg dancing with what the whole world already knows. Nevertheless one must commend President Zuma for lambasting the youth league for being a bad example. He implied that the naked bum chaos at its conferences cannot possibly produce anything worthy of consideration by the mother body and that they will never be taken seriously until they take themselves a tad more seriously. All those who have had a decent matric pass would have heard the sentiments loud and clear … nationalisation — it ain’t gonna happen in our lifetime.


  • Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is Chief Executive of Oresego Holdings - International Business Advisors. He is an accredited Associate of the Institute for Independent Business International (iib). He writes here in his personal capacity. --------------------------------------------- Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is a Media and Communications Specialist who has become a public commentator on a wide range of socio political issues over the last decade. He has cut his teeth in both Government and Private Sector as a top communicator winning awards such as the Government Communicator of the year in 2002 and holding senior positions such as Ministerial Spokesperson for various ministers, Head of Ministry of Environmental Affairs, Communications Advisor to the Chamber of Mines Communications Vice President and General Manager at South African Airways as well as Chief Executive of Graphicor and Simeka Communications. He has also held a senior corporate affairs Job at Top Electonic Company Altron where he was in Charge of the company’s Transformation Programme and Corporate Social Investment. When COPE was formed in 2008 Tabane quit his Corporate Job to Join COPE as their Head of Communications leading up to the 2009 General election. Until July 2010 Today amongst his many activities he was the Political Advisor to Former COPE Parliamentary Leader Dr Mvume Dandala and occasional contributor to many publications. He has also served on various boards of directors including as a member of the Gauteng Tourism Authority, Johannesburg Tourism Authority and until recently chaired the board of the Indalo Yethu Environmental Campaign. He is still a member of the Northwest University Council where he is serving his second term. JJ Tabane is widely known for his forthright manner of debate and fearless tackling of public commentary since his student days where he was SRC President and Vice President at the Universities of the North and Western Cape where he qualified in Law and Politics. He holds a BA,( UNIN), BPROC (UWC) and Masters in Political Economy (NMMU). He is married to Lorraine Ditshedi Tabane and has two children, Oreabetse (4) and Resego (12) after whom he has named his newly launched International Advisory Business Oresego Holdings.


  1. ObviousElephant ObviousElephant 7 October 2010

    I liked your article, but I’m afraid that in some people’s minds greed might speak louder than reason. If someone is sufficiently selfish they might let the country burn if that’s the price of enriching themselves.

  2. Benzol Benzol 7 October 2010

    Some decades ago, Venezuela did some nationalisation of petrochemical assets owned by Shell. They than contracted Shell to keep doing the refinery work. Both parties happy. The political face was saved while the work continued to be done (at a price off course).

    In SA, there might be a few mining companies who would love to get rid of their mines and the obligation to clean up after they finished mining at a profit.

  3. Nkosinathi Khanyile Nkosinathi Khanyile 7 October 2010

    Well said JJ!! I am with you all the way, except for where you play the man (matric results) but not the ball.

    I also say NO to Nationalisation of mines!!

  4. Shaman Sans Frontieres Shaman Sans Frontieres 7 October 2010

    Wise words, Mr Tabane. Thank you. A sobering contextualisation of the debate.

  5. malinge plaatjie malinge plaatjie 7 October 2010

    To me Nationalisation of mines in our country at this stage is still an a dream, in the sense that if our economics policy is still talk about privatisation ,it will be more difficult to any one to be convinced that NATIONALISATION is an a good concept at this stage. Therefore I should thing that we can start talking about to ask our selves as to whether PRIVATISATION is still good economic policy for us ? if yes then let forget about nationalisation, because you cannot nationalised something that does not belong to you or you do not have a full control over to it.
    thank you.

  6. fergie fergie 8 October 2010

    @Tabane, why there isn’t any talk of making world class goods out of SA natural resources?

  7. p.kaitakirwa p.kaitakirwa 8 October 2010

    a fool with little understanding of economics and history continues to make noises about nationalisation.does malema really know what it means.does he know countless african countries that have been ruined by this move.frankly i do not even understand why the media continues to give him is time the anc acted to silence this bafoon.

  8. johnsimonsy johnsimonsy 8 October 2010

    i hope you are right and possible explanation for all this noise be that ANC is deliberately raising this up just to play on the people’s feelings and get support period, no wonder the issue has been postponed!

  9. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 8 October 2010

    Lets assume that the biggest mining company in the country makes 1 Billion rand profit per annum. If this was the case they would pay about 500,000.00 in taxes.

    Lets also assume that we have 1,000,000 school children all looking for free education.

    The nationalised mine would then have 1 Billion to be divided between 1,000,000 so that is R1,000.00 per annum per student or R100.00 per month. What are we going to pay with that in an any event you cannot take all the ‘profits’ of a mine and not use a good portion of it for upgrades and improvement. But then like all other state run organisations this will not happen and the mines will collapse. After the tendertrepeneurs have ripped off 50% of the income there will be R50.00 per month the learners – not even a enough to buy them lunch.
    Whatever the figures may be there is not enough income to support a free education system, or a free anything system except air which hopefully we can keep clean.

    How many golden eggs can one goose lay and who is going to run these companies anyway? Can you imagine Malema as the Minister of Mines tell the cabinet every month “Eish eeets broooken”. You cannot increase something by dividing it.

  10. Hugh Robinson Hugh Robinson 8 October 2010

    Oh to look at the world through Rose petalled glasses and a crystal ball.

    Like any orginisation ideas change. Those in power now will not see through the next 10 years. Most are old gaurd.

    As we noted there are distinct power bases within the ANC.Mandela was chosen as an icon president forcing Mbeki to step down. All followed the Mandella lead.

    As Mbeki’s star rose so did his grip on control. In his case there was a bloodless coupe with his “recall” and eventual replacement by Zuma.

    Who would have imagined that Zuma would have ever been president with the cloud of charges hanging over his head. Well we all know how that was squashed. To this day we wait for answers.

    Now tell me what stops nationalisation if the ruling party has low moral standards?

  11. Neil Parker Neil Parker 8 October 2010

    Agree 100%. Let’s hope you’re right that it’ll never happen in 100 years! Perhaps the ANC youth league needs to look for a leader who understands a little better the role of the league and – more importantly – it’s correct place within ANC structures. The way Julius attempted to dictate terms, you’d think he was the President. Whereas the President’s position is ultimately sanctioned by the electorate, Julius has little or zero democratic credentials outside of those he ‘inherits’ from the ANC.

  12. X Cepting X Cepting 8 October 2010

    “Nationalisation…it ain’t gonna happen in our lifetime” Thank goodness, I hope our children and our children’s children also escape this rather nasty way of empoverishing the many for the benefit of the few. Hopefully we won’t see any Dachas on the Vaal for quite a while yet.

  13. Brian Brian 8 October 2010

    It’s a case of biting more than they can chew!!! this will subsequently lead to more curruption by far…the youth league keeps bringing up the Freedom Charter as if that’s supposed to justify the course,but corruption and self enrichment persuit’s are looming and bubbling under……Gosh!!! i pray this disaster never sees the light of day…..

  14. Robin Grant Robin Grant 8 October 2010

    Socialism was the peoples response to Imperialist Monarchies. Democracy was the Imperialist response to socialism.

    Communism is not a political system – it is a financial system. It is an alternative response to capitalism and the free market economy. Fascism is also a financial system. Fascism is a system where the government owns a controlling interest in all enterprises.

    This is why the SACP and Unions do not like the nationalisation strategy – because this is fascism, and this is counter to the objectives of communism.

    Through evidence globally we have seen how the concept of communism has evolved to embrace taxation and strategic governance as a means to and end. The world has changed dramatically since communism was envisaged. Technology has created a a highly inter-dependant global society in which traditional communism has no place.

  15. Siobhan Siobhan 8 October 2010

    @ JJ Bravo! As usual, your comments, analyses and observations are spot on.
    Ever thought of going into politics? (No,of course not–you’re much too fond of truth-telling for that. Thank goodness!)

  16. Robin Grant Robin Grant 8 October 2010


    With the global environmental and resource crisis’s that are looming, it is becoming clearer that the end of the free market economies as we know them are looming. We need to intervene to stop the destruction that is resulting because of the capitalist free market economies. We need to change our consumerist practices. We need to ban engineered obsolescence that has become the mainstay of capitalism. We need to invest our resources into green engineering. and most importantly we need to stop the highly destructive practise of externalising costs that is being used to pillage third world countries (including South Africa)
    The reason you can buy a radio with headphones for 10 bucks is because the costs have been externalised and are ultimately being paid for at the expense of some third world countries citizens.

    This whole call for Nationalism is simply so that a few elite can live the life of Riley at the expense of the general populace while the Chinese pillage our country and line their pockets. The likes of Malema have seen how the ZANU PF elite live as a result of selling of the Natural resources cheaply to the Chinese and want the same.

  17. Ash Ash 8 October 2010

    I do SO wish that someone would educate Mr Malema … or teach him some history!

  18. David David 8 October 2010

    Great Article, why don’t you stand for President, I would vote for you any day!

  19. George S George S 8 October 2010

    Well argued piece Mr Tabane but stupid things do happen but I, perhaps wrongly, believe that there are many wiser people with real power in SA who are softly spoken but have real ability to influence things. Nevertheless, corporates should be compelled to make greater social investments in the communities in which they operate – that cannot be wrong.

  20. fergie fergie 9 October 2010

    @Robinson, if the government owns all of the resources in SA the people would still be poor and a small elite would be living well. The answer to SA and Africa problem is these countries have to take their resources and make world class goods with them. Africa grows some of the best coffee in the world and sell it for pennies and the coffee companies in Europe and the US sell the coffee for dollars. Africa grows some of the best cotton in the world and shipped it to Asia and buy back the finished goods for five time what these countries paid for the cotton. The oil exporting countries in Africa are selling raw crude oil unrefined and buying back gasoline at three times the coast. The same can be said about Africa mineral and this is why Africa will be poor if they don’t change their policies. Malema is on an ego trip and is not looking at the whole picture with SA resources.

  21. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 9 October 2010

    Nationalisation is all about keeping the young vote for the ANC and its maniac youth league. They don’t care if nationalisation works or not, they will get people to vote for them and that’s all that’s needed. JJ can rant on a stage and tell people how successful nationalization is but if they bothered to check they would find out that it does not work and has not worked anywhere at all. Although Eskom, SAA, SABC etc were not nationalised, they are adequate proof that the government should not be involved in business. Their job is to set up an environment that makes business easy and profitable. It is interesting to note how, when the ANC finds that they have employed dis-functional people, the strict labour laws prohibit then from being fired so in each case a huge golden handshake results. Business cannot afford this as they have to hire the best to do the best. The ANC survives on false promises, not on results.
    Singers and dancers cannot run a business unless that business is singing and dancing.

  22. Econo optimist Econo optimist 9 October 2010

    an excellent well thought out article and proof again that common sense can prevail

  23. EA Blair EA Blair 9 October 2010

    @ Peter Joffe, maybe JM think’s he is JC.

  24. MLH MLH 9 October 2010

    Well, if the way Aurora has been run is anything to go by, the ANC would take a quick trip down. And with it would go mine safety standards, the AMD problem, salaries and much more. And the very best of British to the mine employees…they would certainly have some things well worth striking about!

  25. fellow fighter fellow fighter 9 October 2010

    JJ is nothing but grand standing, he was the President of UWC SRC and left without completing his term of office to going corporate world and one wonder how can you trust his leadership.Yes his article raise important issues however ,he is not objective on this issue.How much natural resource should be taken out of this country with little return from the processor over sea.

    Cde Malema is just expressing how the economic system should be transformed and the fact that the NGC decided to take the matter to the National Policy Conference is not a mistake, because honestly speaking after unbanning of the ANC it will the first time this matter is formaly discussed.

    The condition of the country determine the economic policy hance recommended that further investigation should have been completed before the policy conference, because it so desinginous to say the system will never work without more information and hope those who are going to participate in the investiagation are not going to be subjective as it has happen during the commission summery report to the plenary.

    The youth of this country has to come together and defend the countries gains from the looters,need to stop critisizing in the corner coz the country future will be destroyed in our eyes. JJ should join the mainstream and do the work practically rather than alwalys writing artcles, he must walk the talk know that he no longer having the work to advice anybody.

    Aluta Continua!!!!

  26. JJ Tabane JJ Tabane 10 October 2010

    @ Fellow Fighter….Maybe lets start by asking you to tell us who you really are so we know who we are talking to……Lie No One: I was SRC President for 2 full terms – I did not leave in the middle of any term. Those terms were preceded by my chairmanship of SASCO at UWC and many other leadership roles that u can discover simply by googling. So please do not peddle lies….Lie no 2: I have not joined the mainstream I dont know what you call my 15 years of working in Public and Private Sectors ……writting articles is merely a culmination of being a doer and observer in South African landscape I have nothing more to prove to anybody…..Now please stop nit picking using lies and answer a simple question: Has the ANC ever declared itself socialist? If not what informs the call to isolate one policy and shaff it down the throats of people who clearly will never embrance it? This article is not an elections mahifesto so Grand Standing does not arise… you may want to learnm the proper use of the term…..Next time be brave enough to tell us who you are…this is a debate forum not a gossip site.

  27. nationalise and die nationalise and die 12 October 2010

    What is truly regrettable about this entire absurd nationalisation issue is that it wasn’t kicked out of field altogether at the recent conference.

    So it lurks on a backburner for another couple of years during which our mining potential remains just that: potential; starved of real investment capital because opening a mine is a thirty to forty years timeline exercise and uncertainty knocks out all the marginal players.

    That uncertainty is now part of every investment forecasting algorithm on the planet … for as we all know humans make fewer and fewer investment decisions as the machines take over the management of risk and rewards.

    Perhaps deep down the ANC doesn’t really want any one else to play in their garden and this unwillingness to deal with reality means that they have a useful smokescreen behind which the enrichment process can continue for at at least now, and there may be enough plunder left for the narrow elites, to take us to the half century mark.

    It is a pity you obfuscated on this point.

    BNTW: Most [southern] African capitals didn’t exist before colonisation.[Dilapidated] Kinshasa for instance defines itself as “the imaginary city”… subtitled “‘the white man’s village”: sixty years later!

    Pre-colonial Africa was a rural economy and as you imply was shattered during the “scramble for Africa” by the Rinderpest holocaust, which, as Jared Diamond confirms, represented one of history’s most devastating [albeit probably inadvertent] examples of economic warfare, through egregious folly.

  28. Sipho Sipho 13 October 2010

    @ JJ Tabane
    Me thinks you’re scratching in the mud. Start something new to rival and surpass the ANC,me and my family will pray on your altar. Nationalisation is someone else’s solution to our socio-economic problem.Dismissing it without offering a new, viable alternative is just playing to the afro pessmists gallery. Modern intellectuals are supposed to create new knowledge rather than spending time criticizing those who are grappling with the knowledge gap. You seem to hold an absolute defination of nationalisation, which is unfortunate. As a self professed intellectual you should know that that even nationalisation can be beneficial if certain things are done correctly. Earning a living by wholesale criticism of the ruling party doesn’t do it for me. Anyone can do that, especially in a democracy. Currently that space is already occupied and well maintained by Ms Zille.

  29. jj tabane jj tabane 13 October 2010

    @sipho..u have not presented any argument but simply seek to intimidate me from speaking. Out against what is simply a failed policy…discourse in a democracy is respected for its own sake…no one who critiques policy is frankly obliged to write a counter thesis about what will otherwise work…they can’t be silences on that mindless babasis. So just forget about intimidating me from speaking out I will continue to do so whther u like it or u don’t. And by the way I am not making a living out of it..I am much more ambitious than that…but will never allow myself to be silenced by anyone whether I have solutions or not…if u read my blog u will hardly come to the conclusion that I don’t put solutions on the table. Those who wnat nationaliosation must be brave enough to go and debate socialism. Period.

  30. Sipho Sipho 13 October 2010

    @JJ Tabane. I have read most of your blogs and the common thread that runs through all of them is that your have an absolute defination of concepts.You cannot honestly say there’s not a single point worth noting in my non-argument argument.
    I have mentioned in the past that you seem to take any praise kindly, irrespective whether it is in line with your thoughts. Most of the praises are more anti ANC as opposed to being an exchange of new ideas. Me thinks your accusation of me trying to intimidate you, is meant to intimidate me to fall in line with your praise singers. It’s an old trick in the book, people who pronounce vehemently against tribalism tend to secretly use it to advance their personal interests.

  31. Serame Serame 14 October 2010

    Nationalization is needed in our lifetime to redress the cruel exploitation of the masses by the few. If we do not nationalize the ownership of some of our resources we leave ourselves to the greedy and unthinking exploitation of international capitalists who will leave us in the lurch as soon they discover more lucrative exploits elsewhere. We will always be there.

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