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22 September 2011 23:14

Upper Echelon. Political activist, mining engineer (excerpt): Mike Solomon – former CEO, Wesizwe Platinum

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Alec Hogg is a writer and broadcaster. He founded Moneyweb

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    ‘One can’t necessarily confuse logic with politics.’

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    ALEC HOGG: Political activist and mining entrepreneur Mike Solomon is in our Upper Echelon focus this week. In this highlight clip from the full interview on Moneyweb right now he offers his thoughts on the nationalisation debate.

    ***

    ALEC HOGG: Mike, just broadly, because there can’t be too many other people in South Africa who have got your insights into this, the whole discussion into the nationalisation of mines, we get some people within mining saying: “It’s your fault, you haven’t done enough.” We’ve got other people saying it’s absolute nonsense. Of course you’ve got yet another category, the youngsters in the ANC, who are saying it must happen tomorrow, if not yesterday. What do you think is likely to occur on this front?

    mike solomon: As a point of departure one can’t necessarily confuse logic with politics. The fact is that there is the perception out there, both within government and within a large portion of the population, that the mining industry has not succeeded in redistributing the benefit from the industry as widely as it should have. Now, whether this is the case or not, one could argue that empowerment has been successful, one could argue that it’s not been successful, and it really is a question of the eye of the beholder as to which. But the truth lies in the perception both within government and within the large portion of the population that not enough has been done.
        Now. at this stage it’s academic as to what has succeeded and what more needs to be done. If one were to stick to the original charter and the conditions of the charter – I think that most of the mining companies will of necessity and survival achieve the objectives laid down for them within the constraints and the framework of the charter. But that is not the issue – the issue is that there is popular dissatisfaction with the degree of benefit that is perceived. And if one looks at the ANC Youth League document, all 23 pages of it, and if one could cut through the significant rhetoric within the document, there are a lot of important points that one must actually take cognisance of. And that is looking at broadening the base of the benefit, the whole question of increasing the fiscal capacity within the country and the role that the mining industry plays within that, the questions of skills development and broader benefit. Industrialisation comes up time and time again. And so if you read the document clearly, in fact there are some fairly interesting points that come out of it. It’s anybody’s guess as to which way the nationalisation debate is going to go.

    ALEC HOGG: Is it that close?

    mike solomon: It’s about politics right now. But the industry I believe is going to have to look very carefully at what is being said, and is going to have to be proactive in looking those realities in the face and say, “well, we’ve got a year to contribute to the debate”. The politics – and I think there are two streams over here – the political direction will take its course and what happens in the 2012 elections I think is going to define one way and another the way in which this thing works out. But it’s not good enough for the industry – the industry has got to look at what the key issues are and respond to them, and be proactive in responding to those issues.

    ALEC HOGG: Mike Solomon, political activist, mining engineer, recently stepped down as chief executive of Wesizwe, expert on China – and as you’ve heard, he knows a bit about the nationalisation debate as well.

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