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Motsepe: Nationalisation does not work

Sep 01 2011 07:53 Sake24

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Johannesburg - The South African business community is impotent in influencing policy decisions - such as in the debate over nationalisation - and needs to work at it, says Patrice Motsepe, the country’s foremost businessman.

In a Johannesburg presentation on Wednesday Motsepe, who a year ago drew harsh criticism for declining to take a stand on the nationalisation of the mining industry, bluntly stated that the nationalisation debate would not be held in any developed country because experience had repeatedly proved that it did not work.

"The subject would not be discussed in either America or Europe," he told fund managers, analysts and bankers who attended a presentation of the annual results of his company, African Rainbow Minerals [JSE:ARM].

A year ago certain fund managers, shareholders and mining analysts were upset because he flatly refused to lash out at nationalisation. At that time he said, among other things, that if nationalisation of the mines was the will of the people of South Africa, he would accept it.

He had not wanted to comment aggressively on the matter because in such a debate all parties should be permitted to express their views. Businesspeople needed to maintain credibility.

South Africa is at a critical juncture and discussion is required, said Motsepe. "We also need to be patient with and tolerant of each other," he said in reference to his previous position.

He made a compelling plea for the organised business sector to become more effective in its efforts to influence policy decisions. He pointed out that Limpopo has already formally decided to support the nationalisation of mines at the party’s policy congress mid-2012.

Those who determined economic policy in South Africa, he said, were not in the room and their influence on policy decisions was disproportionally large. The business sector simply had to speak to them, because such decisions had an enormous impact on all concerned.

"The nationalisation debate, for instance, has a huge effect on the mining industry," he said.

But South African business executives have no experience of attending central meetings on policy - such as the ANC’s policy conference or its national conference - where they can explain their positions, he said.

"We have to speak to the ANC," said Motsepe. The ANC is weak at attracting white votes, he continued, and needs to formulate policy that embraces all South Africans.

Business people, he said, must also remember that SA is a developing country with a mixed economy - and the country’s future wellbeing resides in a mixed economy.

He said the creation of a state mining company should be welcomed and supported as it is appropriate for the state to have its own mines. It is necessary to find common ground. Investments by the private sector and a state mining company could constitute a possible area of commonality, he said.

Motsepe played a key role in the 2003 establishment of Business Unity South Africa - an  umbrella body incorporating racially based business organisations. But Busa has been threatening to disband in recent months.

“We must do everything in our power to ensure that white and black business people stay united,” he said.

 - For business news in Afrikaans, go to Sake24.

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