A major conference of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) last week was billed as the final nail in the coffin for a drive to nationalise the country’s mines. Instead, the policy corpse appears to be alive and kicking.
While “blanket nationalisation”—a sweeping buyout that would cost the state, by its own reckoning, $132 billion, or nearly an entire annual budget—and a windfall tax appear to be off the table, the week-long ANC talk-fest has left almost everything else up in the air.
Amid confusion about reports of more state mining firms, partial nationalisation and “strategic” minerals, Enoch Godongwana, the head of the ANC’s ‘Economic Transformation’ Committee, took to the airwaves on Thursday to offer some clarity.
It didn’t help.
“I do not know what kind of clarity people want,” Godongwana, a big-hitter in ANC policy circles, told Talk Radio 702, adding that nationalisation “remains as a weapon for the ANC, as a tool, an instrument, as an option.”
Since the meeting concluded on Friday, various ANC factions have come out to claim victory in their fight to screw more rent out the mines, the economic backbone of the white-minority apartheid state that ended in 1994, and no friend of South Africa’s overwhelming black majority.
Business Day reported on Thursday that delegates from six of South Africa’s nine provinces pushed for mines and firms in the steel and energy sectors to be taken over—to the delight of the ANC Youth League, the most vocal proponent of the idea.
The conference also endorsed the idea of “strategic nationalisation” if backed by the “balance of evidence”—whatever that may mean.
However, the possibility remains that keeping everybody guessing—including ANC rank and file—is actually part of the plan for the party’s top brass as it moves towards the December internal vote and a general election in 2014.