Johannesburg - The people calling for the nationalisation of the country's mines were economically empowered, and had wasted the money lent to them to acquire that ownership, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu
said on Thursday night.
"When we formulated the policy of black participation, most of our brothers, when they were supposed to create that... bought Range Rovers," she said.
"That was not a handout, but a loan by financial institutions for you to buy a stake [within the mining industry] and grow... but what did they do? They bought huge homes."
Shabangu was speaking at the Young Communist League of SA's (YCLA's) open dialogue on the mining sector and opportunities for young people in the sector at the University of Johannesburg.
Also under discussion were the ownership of South African mines and the problems which led to 46 deaths during a strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg.
Shabangu questioned the logic in calling for the nationalisation of mines when most of them had been mined for a long time.
"If the state takes over, some [mines] have already been mined for over 100 years... government would be taking on debt and the liability to rehabilitate... for example mines like Aurora."
She has repeatedly dismissed talks of nationalisation, saying on Thursday that those who were calling for it wanted to own mines at the expense of mineworkers.
She said the businesses of those who had benefited from black participation had gone under when the global financial crisis struck in 2009.
"They said: 'When we nationalise, government is going to pay us, then we'll be off the hook'."
They thought they would be given about R40bn if the government nationalised the mines.
She acknowledged that there were too few black CEOs in the mining industry and that transformation was needed, but said it had to be correctly done.
"You can't count them [black CEOs]. They are not even more than 10 because of the past. We've stifled the growth of the black child."
Shabangu said that instead of hoping to benefit from nationalisation, young people should acquire skills they could use in the mining sector, to play a role in the economy.
She said South Africans would feel the negative effect of the illegal strikes across the mining sector next year.
"We have lost 37% of our trading partners from Europe.... This action [the strikes] will cause a big bang... a negative bang."
YCLSA national secretary Buti Manamela said Shabangu should be more concerned about the "people" rather than investors.
"Its not investors who elect government, its the people who elect government," he said.
He agreed that young people had to arm themselves with skills before being part of the mining sector.
Manamela said it was unacceptable that shareholders of mines such as Aurora were living in luxury while the workers at the same mines were starving.
Fin24 on Twitter