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Marikana: massacre or mascara?

Sep 20 2012 12:32

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MyFin24 is a user-generated section of Fin24.com. The stories here come from users.

Fin24 user Jarred Myers, who is working in Marikana today, shares his observations.

Marikana: massacre or mascara – SA’s sputnik moment

Dubbed by the global media the Marikana Massacre, this historic event which today turned the corner as workers returned to their shafts at Lonmin’s Western Platinum Mine in the North West Province requires context and critical thinking.

Mascara is a cosmetic commonly used to enhance the eyes. It may darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or define the eyelashes. The Marikana Mascara poignantly fulfils these functions.

The eye of the world has acutely focused on South Africa by zooming in on the previously unheard of mining town of Marikana. This ignominious event has exposed SA’s labour weakness with an unsubtle poke in the eye.

The question requiring decibels now is whether this event will darken, thicken, lengthen and/or define the epoch which has unwantedly dawned upon the nation.

That it will darken, in the short term there is no doubt that a perceptual dark cloud has rested on SA’s resource industry, likewise as the currencies and metal prices have roller-coasted these past weeks is evidence enough that the market views Lonmin’s storm as a bellwether for mining, industry and national productivity as a whole.

However, it is not the event that will define this period but rather the response to it, the lessons learnt and the steps taken towards sustaining progress or the lack thereof going forward.

Will it thicken the strife in the mining sector? As it stands the contagion has spread throughout the platinum mining industry and has reached the gold miners as well, is this opportunistic free riding by unions or an African Spring mirroring the political dislocations observed in the Arab world last year?

Its causation certainly lacks the ideological muster to bear comparison; however, its results may eerily correlate.

As demonstrated by these strikers of the wildcat variety, Lonmin teetered with solvency before capitulating in a monumental enema to profitability. If such action was to be repeated or extended at other mines - which it undoubtedly will with such a successful precedent - will we see seismic activity in the mining sector with incumbents closing shaft?

What will the knock on effects of this be? Suspended capital investment in the country? This is already taking place by SA being conspicuously cut down as a capex destination by Anglo and others.

Gradual diversification of risk by industry majors to other countries and metals? No mining major will have its next board meeting without diversification strategies and diabolic what-ifs on the agenda.

Difficulties in raising funds on the capital markets? We’ll have to wait and see how the market responds as industry players roll over debt and issue more shares.

GDP impact? By the time trends are identified the industry will have moved from high care to the ICU ward.

Fundamentally the question as to whether it will define the industry will be left to historians and not economists but the challenge of how this period will be classified is in the hands of those currently in power, despite their competency or willingness. 

Let it be abundantly clear to all that this is a SA’s sputnik moment. Will the country respond like America did to the Russian space advances by galvanising the nation into matching and eventually surpassing Russia, or will the myopic, KPI (key performance indicator)-obsessed position holders fumble?

As a nation SA needs to call to task its leadership and judge them not by the altitude of their platitudes nor the venom of their diatribes but on the outcomes of their actions, the strength of their resolve and the impact of their endeavour.

 - Fin24

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