The matter of mines
T BECAME clear very early in the debate to nationalise the country's mines that the ANC-led alliance would not agree on the model for the proposed grabbing of mines.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe fired the first salvo when he warned that the party would not be dragooned into nationalising private debt under the guise of nationalising mines.
In a post-ANC national executive committee media briefing in July, Mantashe said the leadership was aware that some advocates of nationalisation were beneficiaries of government's black economic empowerment policies whose mining companies had been placed in distress by the economic recession.
"I don't talk to suspicions ... but what we must caution is that we cannot be involved in the nationalisation of debt, especially not within the context of the current global economic meltdown."
He then wanted to know why the ANC Youth League, which claims to be guided by the Freedom Charter, was only calling for the nationalisation of mines and not other industries.
"When people refer to the Freedom Charter we want them to refer to it accurately because if you don't, you can cause confusion in society and be emotional about it."
The historic document, signed in Kliptown in 1955, says: "The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.
"All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people."
The ANC boss also created the impression that the youth league had lost the plot because the state had made advances towards nationalising mines when it introduced the Mineral and Sectoral Development Act, which says the state should own 26percent of mining rights on behalf of citizens.
He says this "reverted the ownership of mineral deposits to the state", therefore giving effect to the content of a clause of the charter, which called for the mineral wealth to be transferred to the majority.
The call by the National Union of Metal Workers of SA last month for the nationalisation of the wealth of mining magnates Patrice Motsepe and Tokyo Sexwale also lent credence to suggestions that the nationalisation debate was driven by BEE beneficiaries motivated by "stupid jealousy", according to ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.
"It's talking to the resentment we have among ourselves as black people. If anybody progresses, we feel very jealous and we resent their success," Mantashe told a press conference.
To anyone following the debate, Mantashe's utterances suggested the ANCYL was being used by some BEE beneficiaries with influence in the ANC.
It also suggested other ulterior motives on the part of the ANCYL, especially regarding its failure to call for the nationalisation of banks and other industries.
What's in it for ANCYL president Julius Malema and the young lions?
At face value, nationalisation as proposed by Malema would benefit the youth and take the organisation closer to another aspiration espoused by the youth leaguers - that of funding "free and compulsory education".
In this regard the guiding document says: "Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children.
"Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit."
Those in the alliance - the ANC, Cosatu, SA Communist Party and the SA National Civics Organisation - who question the motive of the ANCYL, suggest the league stands to benefit from nationalisation after its decision to close down its investment arm, Lembede Investment Holdings, which had wide-ranging mining rights.
The company failed to generate profits from these, but stands to benefit if the government approves the proposals.
This allegation, along with Mantashe's warning that the state would be careful not to "nationalise private debt", suggests a final model would result in the state buying the envisaged majority stake in mining companies.
The Chamber of Mines recently estimated the value of the country's mining companies to be in excess of R2trillion.
Informed by this, delegates attending the SACP congress last week booed Malema and accused him of being a mouthpiece for capitalists.
But ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu argues that the young lions have no plan to bankrupt the state by calling for the nationalisation of mines.
"Our view is that government must not pay anything for nationalisation.
"At the end of the debate, the law must state clearly that companies applying for mining rights must accept that the government will own 60percent of the profits.
"Whether we end up with nationalisation with or without compensation will depend on a final model that will be done by the ANC," Shivambu said.