President Zuma delivered a typically uninspiring state of the nation address just a few days ago. There are enough political analysts and economists who will help us dissect and understand the content of his speech, and so I will not waste your time reciting what you already know. I would like to speculate about a few things, based on my uneducated observations especially in the mining sector and its future in South Africa.
One of Zuma’s supposed successes is South Africa being roped into the BRICS group of countries. This has opened South Africa to a whole new list of possibilities. One of these possibilities is a newer, more subtle form of colonialism, and China is leading the race to (re)capture Africa.
The mining sector in South Africa is a historically significant one, because it led to the formation of Johannesburg, and centres of learning such as Wits and Tuks. Today, the sector is only known for its strikes, poor safety records, and acquisitions by the Chinese. In the last few years, there have been an unprecedented number of strikes and fatalities. Chief among these is, of course, the London listed Lonmin’s Marikana massacre. I believe in my heart of hearts that all these have their roots in number one’s pocket.
China’s industrial drive is on the basis of a robust manufacturing sector, cheap labour and a highly entrepreneurial populace. The Chinese also have access to high quality technology, and for them, nothing is (im) possible. Unfortunately, they also have the highest population, and poorest human rights record. Their only apparent limit is size! And I do not mean inches, but the size of their country relative to their population. But what does this have to do with us, or Zuma for that matter?
1. China wants to own a continent, and be the next great umpire after Rome, Persia, Greece and Obama’s USA. This has seen China expanding trade with Africa, building stadia in former war-torn countries, building roads, sending “missionaries” to open shops, and sell China to the world. By joining BRICS, SA lost a certain level of its sovereignty, infamously ending in a PR disaster when Tutu’s Buddhist friend was denied a visa to enter the country with the most porous borders in the world.
2. China knows that land is a delicately balanced topic in Africa and South Africa in particular. By entering the mining sector as “investors” they become a part of the land debate in South Africa.
3. The Chinese, being communist know the challenge faced by Jacob: Defeating a market based capitalist economy without being “sanctioned”. And so they sold Zuma the solution in exchange for our land: Infrastructure in exchange for your minerals.
So let me put some context: Rand Uranium, a Chinese consortium bought the dilapidated mining operations formerly owned by Harmony, post Pamodzi. This coincided with the Global credit crisis of 07. Standard Bank (Africa’s biggest bank by assets) entered into a deal with the devil, when they secured a loan deal with ICBC in 09. This deal alone should have sent flags in the west, but the response has been slow. In 2012, Gold fields agreed to sell its long standing west rand operations to Sibanye Gold (another Chinese-backed industrial giant). There can surely be no prizes for guessing which bank has been undersigning these deals.
Curiously, ever since China started showing an interest in South Africa, our most precious resource has experienced one problem after another. The slowing demand for gold, the weakness of our currently, snail pace economic growth, instability in the London controlled platinum sector. It seems apparent that China is mapping a coup d’état on South Africa’s economy. By controlling our banks ( access to credit); our mines(land) and soon our media (propaganda), we will be the first country in the world to have black Chinese or blackanese as some claim the correct term is for such an individual.
At the time of writing, Sibanye Gold has also bought Rand Uranium’s Cooke operations in Westonaria. And their first act: Charging the protesting community of trespass in their own land.
All this is happening while our number is “relaxing at home” and we all know that home is not a home but a palace for the governor of China in South Africa: Jacob Zuma. Much has been said about the Zupta’s, but silently: our worst enemy is from the far east waiting to devour us by sponsoring a civil war to end the tie. And it seems Zuma is a willing spectator.