The Daily Maverick is a unique blend of news, information, analysis and opinion delivered from our newsroom in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Stuck between worker demands for a decent living wage and insistence for broader ownership rights (or even nationalisation) and the market’s implacable demands for profits, Anglo American may have to give up its place as an iconic South African institution and be content as one more middling mining company among many.
At one of those archetypal South African dinner parties the other night, the news that Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll had just resigned got more than a mention. One guest recalled that for decades, the hard men ensconced on the top floors of Anglo American’s 44 Main Street headquarters – the one with those magnificent friezes of African animals on the walls – controlled nearly 40% of Africa’s total GDP and that, in turn, meant something like 60% of the share value of the entire the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
It was an empire almost without parallel – as if General Motors, Ford, DuPont, RCA and a half dozen other Fortune 500 stalwarts from America’s industrial Golden Age were one interlocking conglomerate. At its peak, Anglo’s organizational chart looked more like a complete depiction of the chemical relationships of the body’s Krebs metabolic cycle than a tightly structured industrial behemoth.