On the first scan, the ANC Study Group on the ‘State Intervention in the Minerals Sector’ report seems to assuage the fears of the investor community with its unequivocal rejection of nationalisation.
The report suggests, for example, that conversion of old order mining rights held under private ownership to new order mining rights falling under state custodianship was tantamount to nationalisation, and that fulfils the economic clauses of the Freedom Charter.
This conversion, sealed with the promulgation of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act in 2002, gave the state power to use licences to drive transformation and to structure relations with the private sector on more productive terms.
However, lodged beneath this benign facade is a quiver of arrows aimed at driving the private sector away from mining in South Africa while asserting the authority of the state writ large over the economy.
While harsh on the mining industry, the report reflects little about the performance of the state in effectively using its licensing authority. Yet such an audit would have helped to provide us with a balanced and broader view of the failures and opportunities in the sector.