Johannesburg – Corporate speeches usually avoid talk of a “difficult and dark” past. But this month Mark Cutifani, head of Anglo American, defended the South African mining industry’s record on opening up ownership to the country’s black majority.
With the government planning to shore up black participation in mining, the next few months are the most critical in the sector’s 150-year history, Mr Cutifani said. Many “still don’t understand” that the modern owners of South African mines are no longer the “Randlords”, he said, referring to the white industrialists who exploited black labour to establish the country as one of the world’s leading miners.
His speech was widely seen as a warning to the ruling African National Congress. Increasingly reliant on populist rhetoric as its support wanes and the economy stagnates, the government wants to consolidate black ownership in an industry that was once the country’s economic bedrock but is now declining.
The ANC introduced black economic empowerment (BEE) to address the apartheid-led exclusion of blacks from South Africa’s economy and it encompassed far more than just mining. Companies had to bring black ownership up to a stipulated level.
But its implementation has been widely criticised for enriching a politically connected elite, such as Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president, and Tokyo Sexwale, another ANC veteran. As a result, empowerment had been seen as a narrow “self-enrichment scheme for a few people” connected to policymakers, said William Gumede, chair of the Democracy Works Foundation.
For the rest of this article, click here: https://www.ft.com/content/64dee8e0-f8df-11e6-bd4e-68d53499ed71