Interview: Why the ANC Youth League Wants Nationalisation

by Aug 11, 2010International Youth Day, Special Features

Floyd Shivambu, spokesperson for the African National Congress Youth League, gave Amandla! an interview as to why the Youth League has resurrected the nationalisation debate.

What has motivated the ANCYL to place the issue of the nationalisation of the mines on the public agenda?

The ANC Youth League is always motivated by the need to realise the totality of the Freedom Charter objectives. But also, as a youth generation confronted with massive challenges of poverty and unemployment, the ANC Youth League is forever expected to provide guidance and leadership on what should be done towards the real betterment and empowerment of people’s lives. The poverty and suffering of our people inspires us a lot.

Why now and not before?

When the ANC Youth League took the resolution on the nationalisation of mines in June 2008, it was inspired by the reality that South Africa realised political freedom, but struggled to economically emancipate the black majority and Africans in particular. In our basic understanding, economic emancipation and freedom means the realisation of the Freedom Charter objectives, and we will realise that in our lifetime. The actualisation of the Freedom Charter should have happened upon transition, but because the balance of forces was not totally in favour of the forces of change, certain retreats had to be made by the leadership. Now that we have the necessary political power to transform the economy, we should move decisively to ensure that the people share in the country’s wealth.

When you commented on the position of the Minister of Mines, stating that she was acting to appease the imperialists, what did you mean?

Mineral resources in South Africa are still controlled by imperialist multinational forces, and anyone who seeks to retain the status quo is doing so in the interest of imperialists. Minister Susan Shabangu said things that were damaged her credibility as a leader of the ANC. She also exposed her own confusion of the Freedom Charter and the role of the ANC in government.

How does the ANCYL suggest one should respond if finance capital were to flee the country under conditions of nationalisation, and how would one deal with a potential currency/financial crisis that probably would occur?

We treat all postulations and threats of a capital flight and disinvestment as false alarms. South Africa has beneath its soil, and is legally in control of, almost all the strategic minerals in the world. Not only investors but the world markets need South Africa’s minerals more than we need them. No one can disinvest our mineral reserves or fly to another investment destination with our minerals. The ANC Youth League has in the interim proposed a model that will allow partnership with the private sector, wherein the State owns 60%, but the intention is to ultimately have total control and ownership of mineral resources and the actual process of extraction, processing, beneficiation and trade.

Does your position on nationalisation not suggest an outright criticism of the economic strategy and policy of the government, which has seen the liberalisation and opening up of the economy to international finance since the end of apartheid?

The ANC Youth League’s 23rd Congress resolutions actually say that “GEAR must be reviewed, so as to respond to the new economic challenges facing our country as a whole”. This was largely informed by the need to realise the aims and objectives of the Freedom Charter and usage of political power in a responsible but assertive way to ensure that the State plays a very important and leading role in development and economic growth.

Why do you think the SACP, a communist organisation, has taken such a hostile position on the ANCYL’s proposals for nationalisation of the mines?

The SACP is almost spiralling into a politico-ideological crisis, because the leadership of the Party confuses succession politics with real ideological battles happening in the alliance currently. Individuals who are perceived to be opposing SACP leaders who strangely expect election and re-election into ANC leadership in the 2012 Conference are isolated, and everything they say is treated with doubt. Now, the Youth League is viewed as opposing certain individuals, and the Party leadership then mutates the whole issue into an ideological matter. At some level, there seems to be lack of clarity in the SACP on what constitute its national democratic and socialist tasks in the post-democratic dispensation. One thing that’s for sure, though, is that whether the Party supports or does not support nationalisation of mines, the ANC Youth League will mobilise other relevant social forces in society towards a concrete, coherent and correct perspective on nationalisation.

Why should we not be in favour of expropriation of even profitable mines, given the role of the mine owners in developing and perpetuating the apartheid system and in the dispossession of black people in general? Surely, this should be a major component of a redistribution of wealth strategy.

Now the issue of expropriation with or without compensation is under discussion, and whoever inputs should illustrate to the ANC how compensation or non-compensation will help manage the transfer of mines in the most appropriate manner. Our intention is to manage the whole nationalisation discourse in a manner that will not cause instability and uncertainty.

Why do you think the Freedom Charter should remain the strategic objective of the ANC, and what does its implementation imply for economic policy going forward?

It is not a question of thinking that the Freedom Charter should remain the ANC’s strategic objective, because the Freedom Charter is the objective currently. The question is whether the political leadership has the necessary political will to move assertively and decisively towards the realisation of Freedom Charter objectives, and the current generation of youth activists in the ANCYL are saying the Freedom Charter should be totally realised in our lifetime. Implementation of the Freedom Charter will obviously change property relations in some instances, and could lay a firm foundation for even more radical moves to transform the economy and socialise majority of production means.

Is the ANCYL’s position on nationalisation related to an ideological position against capitalism? Can capitalism work in a country like SA, with such high levels of inequality?

Whoever can say what, the reality of the situation is that the Freedom Charter is an anti capitalist programme, and that is what guides us. We, however, accept and appreciate the reality, noted by Nelson Mandela in 1956, that the Freedom Charter does not call for total abolishment of private property, but for discontinuation of private ownership of the strategic sectors of the economy, i.e. mineral wealth, banks and monopoly industries.

Read more articles from Issue #13, March/April 2010

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