Thu Dec 08 16:23:28 CAT 2016

So many questions: Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba

Chris Barron | 2011-08-07 03:00:36.0

In a speech this week the Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, said the way nationalisation was being debated was harming SA. Chris Barron asked him ...

Why did you decide to speak out?

I have recently been on an international road show with Transnet to Europe and America, and wherever we met with investors their main concern was nationalisation. Now it is a fact that from where we stand we understand that investors are concerned about nationalisation, about the talk of nationalisation. They said they were not so much worried about the debate but about the manner in which the debate is conducted. And so I was responding to this, to say that we are aware that investors are concerned about nationalisation.

Is it the manner of the debate that concerns them, or the fact that we're having the debate at all?

The debate is necessary.

Why?

The concerns raised by those who want nationalisation are genuine. The concerns that the unemployed are raising, the concerns that the poor communities in the areas surrounding the mines are raising are genuine. I think we must find solutions to these concerns, because it seems that the mining companies have not played the role that they ought to have to address the concerns of the poor communities.

They're paying vast sums to the government in taxes and royalties...

And the poor communities are still poor.

Will nationalisation change that?

That's a question we all need to address. But we need to debate this in a manner that seeks cohesion rather than coercion.

If, as you say, the debate about nationalisation is harming us, isn't it time the government issued an unequivocal statement on where it stands?

The problem with that is that the debate about the economic transformation of SA is not complete. And it's not going to be easy to say to anybody, 'don't talk about how to transform the economy'. Those discussions are going to carry on. Issues of nationalisation must be raised.

So you're saying although the debate is doing a lot of harm it must continue? 

No. What all of us in government have said is there is no government policy on nationalising mines. But you can't clamp down on the debate. We are a multiparty, pluralist democracy, we need to manage the manner in which we engage in the debate, but we can't suppress it. The concern is that those who disagree are insulted and ridiculed, and therefore there is no space for people to add their views, including the owners of the mining companies.

So if the debate were conducted in a more gentlemanly fashion...

Cordially.

If it were conducted more cordially, would that satisfy the investors?

I think it would satisfy them because they then would also be able to make their opinions known on the issue.

You think they'll bring their money to SA while nationalisation remains on the table?

There is no policy of the ANC to nationalise the mines. It is a discussion. But there is no policy. I am confident that the ANC will come to a decision on it.

Shouldn't there be a sense of urgency about how quickly they they do so? 

A decision is going to be made sooner or later.

Can SA afford the luxury of an ongoing debate?

I think the mining companies need to come up with a much more comprehensive policy suggestion, a practical suggestion about how they are going to address the concerns of communities around the mines.

It sounds like you've softened your stance since the youth league attacked you. Would that be fair comment?

No, it wouldn't. I have just been emphasising what I said on Monday.

You seemed to be saying that the nationalisation debate was harming us. Now you say it's only the way the debate is being conducted?

I was talking about the manner in which we are conducting the debate. We need to defend the right of people to add their views without fear that some bully-boy tactics are going to be applied against them.

Is it times for the ANC to put the youth league in it's place?

I don't want to comment about the youth league.

Isn't this part of the problem, that ministers like yourself are scared of the youth league?

No. I am the minister of public enterprises and my opinion only matters in that capacity. I don't think I would say I am scared. But we have allowed internal processes to deal with these challenges and I think we have arrived at a point where the ANC leadership needs to take a stand about how these issues are being handled in public.

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