South African mining: an urgent need for cool heads
Former AngloGold Ashanti CEO, Bobby Godsell believes that the mining industry needs to work harder to achieve a post-Apartheid dividend
Posted: Tuesday , 11 Sep 2012
JOHANNESBURG (Mineweb) -
Bobby Godsell, a member of the South African government's National Planning Commission and a long-time previous head of miner AngloGold Ashanti, has said that the dialogue in the country should shift to one where a household's needs for a decent life are debated.
"We talk about decent work but what does a family need? Two breadwinners, be generous, what do you need to pay rent, put food on the table, contribute something to your school kids, takkies, school fees, what do you need? And that number isn't R3000 and it's not R4000, we know that" said Godsell at the Gordon Institute of Business Science panel discussion entitled ‘Insights into Marikana' last night.
The real challenge for mining said Godsell was to reflect on whether or not the industry had realised a post-apartheid dividend.
"Dr Verwoerd believed that for every job there should be two people to do the job. One should do the work and the other should sign the paper. One should be black and the other white. By the way I'm not so sure by how much we have changed that. Except that we have actually reversed the colour and the guy doing the job is called a consultant" said Godsell to an auditorium that snickered.
This dividend or non-racial society believes the former mining boss needed to be created through a non-racial job structure where the potential for upwards movement through the ranks was a reality.
"We need a 16 year old who can come and lash and become a rock drill operator and then become a shift boss and then become a section manager and then become the CEO of AngloGold Ashanti. So the way to lift wages over time, if we look at the history of industrialisation, is through improved technology, improved efficiency, and improved productivity".
The former mine boss urged the audience to enquire about what cleaners and security guards were earning at their respective companies whilst also emphasising that the minimum and average wages in mining are higher than other industrial sectors.
"It is completely crazy to say that mining is ordained by God to pay unfair wages" said Godsell.
Godsell closed the loop by saying that if this dialogue was undertaken then the country would have a goal but that it was also not viable to extract more than was realistically possible.
"Now we live in a real world and in a real world you cannot take out of an economic process more than you put in" said Godsell.
Quoting the national planning commission goal for nobody to earn less that R412 per month per person by 2030, Godsell called on South Africans and the business community to stop waiting for government to push for the target of 5.4% consistent growth over the next 18 years.
"Is that impossible? In terms of what South Africans have achieved over the last 18 years? If we can end apartheid then we can achieve 5.4% growth. We can achieve productivity and growth" said Godsell.
Economist, Dr Iraj Abedian, said that there was a disconnect between formal and informal values, particularly in business and that the basic fact of economics, that capital and labour are inseparable, needed to be recognised by both management and unions alike.
Political analyst, Aubrey Matshiqi, was also on the panel and warned against society vacillating between hysterical pessimism and hysterical optimism depending on the events of the day and called for reflection.
"As far as Mangaung is concerned, it has been attached to Marikana due to our over reliance on the political space. What are we prepared to do with the rest of our post-apartheid condition" said Matshiqi.
Mangaung (Bloemfontein and surrounds) is where the ANC's upcoming elective conference is to be held in December.
Eddie Majadibodu, a National Union of Mineworkers representative on the panel, painted a stark warning of a polarised and poisoned political environment with a changing profile of membership for the union that was becoming younger, more militant and impatient.
"In our analysis, we are saying that the situation [strikes] could take longer than people think. There are people linking this to Mangaung and this is still three months away. The current situation calls for sober minds and cool headed people" said Majadibodu.
The union is asking its members to give it a chance to negotiate and to proceed with a process that is one of give and take said Majadibodu pointing to the problems that mines are currently facing and that if some employers give in to the R12500 wage demand, workers could later face retrenchment and the threat of being replaced by automation.