Nationalisation does not work – Patrice Motsepe

2011-09-01 07:56

The South African business community is impotent in affecting policy decisions – such as in the debate over nationalisation – and needs to work at it, says Patrice Motsepe, one of the country’s foremost businessmen.

In a Johannesburg presentation yesterday Motsepe, who a year ago drew harsh criticism for declining to take a stand on the nationalisation of the mining industry, bluntly stated that the nationalisation debate would not be held in any developed country because experience had repeatedly proved that it did not work.

“The subject would not be discussed in either America or Europe,” he told fund managers, analysts and bankers who attended a presentation of the yearly results of his company, African Rainbow Minerals.

A year ago certain fund managers, shareholders and mining analysts were upset because he refused to lash out at nationalisation. At that time he said, among other things, that if nationalisation of the mines was the will of the people of South Africa, he would accept it.

He had not wanted to comment aggressively on the matter because in such a debate all parties should be permitted to express their views.

Business people needed to maintain credibility.
South Africa was at a critical juncture and discussion was required, said Motsepe.

“We also need to be patient with and tolerant of each other,” he said in reference to his previous position.

He made a compelling plea for the organised business sector to become more effective in its efforts to influence policy decisions. He pointed out that Limpopo had already formally decided to support the nationalisation of mines at the party’s policy congress mid-2012.

Those who determined economic policy in South Africa, he said, were not in the room and their influence on policy decisions was disproportionately large. The business sector had to speak to them, because such decisions had an enormous effect on all concerned.

“The nationalisation debate, for instance, has a huge effect on the mining industry,” he said.
But South African business executives had no experience of attending central meetings on policy – such as the ANC’s policy conference or its national conference – where they could explain their positions, he said.

“We have to speak to the ANC,” said Motsepe. The ANC was weak at attracting white votes, he continued, and needed to formulate policy that embraced all South Africans.

Business people, he said, must also remember that SA was a developing country with a mixed economy – and the country’s future wellbeing resided in a mixed economy.

He said the creation of a state mining company should be welcomed and supported as it was appropriate for the state to have its own mines. It was necessary to find common ground.

Investments by the private sector and a state mining company could constitute a possible area of commonality, he said.

Motsepe played a key role in the 2003 establishment of Business Unity South Africa – an umbrella body incorporating racially based business organisations. But Busa had been threatening to disband in recent months.

“We must do everything in our power to ensure that white and black business people stay united,” he said.

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