As South Africa celebrates a generation of freedom, Anglo American acknowledges its deep roots in the country and looks ahead to its contribution in the next 25 years and beyond. Over the next five weeks experience 25 Reasons to Believe with City Press as we explore the economy, job creation, enterprise development, health, land reform, sustainability, technology and – most important of all – communities.
Anglo’s transformation into a partner to government, labour and society
When he opened the Mining Indaba in Cape Town in 2017, former president Thabo Mbeki spoke eloquently about the role of mining in “providing all humanity with the material resources” with which to make the goods that “help define a better life for all”.
“In other words,” Mbeki told the leaders of the world’s mining industry, “it would not be possible to provide the goods and services which humanity needs to better the human condition without the provision by the mining industry of the metals, minerals and fuels that make it possible for this humanity to produce these goods and services.”
He stressed the importance of the mining industry for Africa; many of whose countries are highly dependent on extractive industries. This made mining companies very important players, hence the great need for corporate citizenship on the part of those that operate on the continent.
“I am convinced that, in this context, our companies or corporations must truly focus on the very important matter of what the concept and practice of ‘corporate citizenship’ actually means,” added Mbeki.
Fortunately, this concept does not need to be explained to Anglo American, the colossus that straddles the South African mining industry and is such a key cog in the country’s economy. As is evident in the pages that follow, both from interviews with Anglo American leaders and the stories from the ground, the ethos is entrenched in the psyche and business practice of the company.
From being seen as a beneficiary of the apartheid government’s more egregious policies, the Anglo American of the past 25 years has transformed into a partner to government, labour and civil society in South Africa’s evolving social compact.
This was important in a country that had been given an opportunity to remake itself from scratch. When the new South Africa was born in 1994, the concept of freedom to many was that liberation simply meant a political democracy. While it was true that formal democracy was the platform on which the new republic would be built, the enormity of the task of undoing the past and creating a competitive and humane nation soon dawned on leaders and ordinary citizens. It became clear that this was not a task that government could carry out alone. All hands had to be on deck, as the saying goes.
The myriad challenges ranged from economic inclusiveness and dealing with a skewed and disastrous health system to creating a literate and numerate populace. In addition, South Africa’s forging of nationhood and reintegration into the global community coincided with the most rapid technological advancement in human history. There was no time for catching up. We had to plough right in and cope with the forces of globalisation. Humanity was also awakening to the reality of how we were destroying our planet and how many economic development models were not sustainable.
Global movements fighting for the rights of marginalised peoples were gaining momentum and those who held traditional power – such as governments and corporations – were no longer able to rule the world.
This is where the role of a company such as Anglo American became important. As one of the de facto leaders of South Africa Inc and one of the architects of the detente that led to the negotiated settlements, Anglo American had to do more than just generate returns for shareholders, pay wages and contribute taxes to the fiscus. A larger, more active and activist role was required.
In this publication, you will see how that role was played at macro and micro level, and you will learn about how the company intends to continue to play this role.
Has it been enough? Definitely not. Have the interventions and policies of the post-apartheid Anglo American been enough to ameliorate the past? Certainly not. Are the visions and plans bold enough? Only history will tell.
What is important is that the company is not shying away from taking a leadership role as our republic grows into a mature adult.
- Mondli Makhanya is the chief executive of City Press
Anglo American: Our roots run deep in SA
In many ways, the Anglo American story is South Africa’s story: one of new beginnings, growth and ground-breaking advances not only in mining, but also in the country’s economy and society.
Most of all, it’s a story of how we see South Africa’s success as an intrinsic part of our own success. We’ve been here for more than 100 years and are proud of our deep roots in this great nation.
The 25th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy is an opportune time to look ahead and reflect on how we can continue to build an inclusive, prosperous and stronger South Africa together.
Anglo American's investment in SA over the next five eyars, the biggest investment announced last year at the SA investment summit
The number of Anglo American employees in South Africa
The number of SMMEs Anglo American Zimele has supported in 30 years
This publication celebrates our deep bond with South Africa by highlighting 25 stories of how we’re shaping the country’s mining industry for the future, as the largest mining company in South Africa, and in how our innovative approach to sustainable mining will help South African mining compete on the global stage once again.
Anglo American has long made a real and lasting positive difference to South Africa. We pioneered black economic empowerment in the 1990s, long before BEE entered the lexicon. We drove the largest private sector roll-out of antiretroviral treatment for HIV/Aids in the early 2000s. More recently, we’ve partnered with government to improve the education outcomes of learners in our host communities. We are committed to doing our part to help South Africa grow and prosper.
I’m particularly proud of our role in leading the transformation of South Africa’s corporate landscape. Over the past 25 years, we’ve helped create some of South Africa’s most successful black-owned and managed companies, such as Exxaro, Seriti Resources, African Rainbow Minerals, Royal Bafokeng Platinum and Siyanda Resources.
Our challenge is to keep making this difference at a time when the mining industry and the world are in a time of unprecedented disruption.
Mining will need to change significantly to be sustainable, and I believe South Africa has an important role to play in hosting a modern mining industry – one that will contribute to achieving the South African dream of “a better life for all”.
Anglo American, in partnership with other stakeholders, will play its part in building a mining sector in South Africa that is safe, innovative, internationally competitive, more attuned to the demands of stakeholders, and in tune with South Africa’s priorities.
The sheer pace and scale of technological advancement means the mining industry must adapt to new technologies and ways of working. At the same time, society demands more of the industry today than ever before, including being responsible for our stewardship of resources and the environment.
We will continue to be a force for good in contributing to solving South Africa’s socioeconomic challenges.
One of the ways we are doing this is by turning the traditional model of socioeconomic development on its head in some of South Africa’s regions where we operate, such as Limpopo.
Imagine a mining community that embraces innovation and benefits directly from the rich mineral endowment beneath its feet, while new economic activities such as 3-D printing; agribusiness opportunities, for example, biofuels or game ranching; and tourism begin to develop, building on mining’s contribution. We call this “collaborative regional development”.
In essence, we aim to empower communities to achieve long-term economic prosperity, with mining as the catalyst rather than the sole economic activity.
This is a sustainable model and one we encourage everyone to embrace in South Africa. We have begun working on this model by partnering with a broad range of stakeholders, including World Vision, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, planning firm Dobbin International, mining company Exxaro Resources and the office of the premier in Limpopo.
Today, we are the most significant mining investor in South Africa, and by a considerable margin. We believe in South Africa’s enormous potential, pure and simple. By working with government, our host communities, nongovernmental organisations and faith-based organisations, and by re-imagining mining to improve people’s lives, we can keep growing together. The 25 stories we feature here demonstrate some of the ways Anglo American is bringing this belief to life.
We will continue to build on the progress we’ve made, working hard to ensure that we help to build an inclusive and prosperous South Africa for many decades to come, because we know that we only grow when South Africa grows.
- Mark Cutifani is the chief executive of Anglo American