Driving from White River to Steelpoort Wednesday morning, via Lydenburg, there was a constant stream of ore carrier trucks moving chrome ore from the chrome mines to Maputo, for shipping to China. I guess I passed 100 of them. I overtook as many returning empty to collect more chrome.
There was a time, not long ago, where the chrome was being smelted at Tubatse, Winterveld, at ASA metals and Middelburg, to produce Ferro chrome and steel, no longer. These furnaces are now cold and dead, extinguished by high electricity prices and erratic supply.
Increasing the beneficiation of our raw materials, with which the country is blessed in abundance, has been a core policy objective of the ANC government. They have not only failed to achieve this, they have done the opposite. We beneficiate a fraction of what we did before. Smelters and steel works have closed and tens of thousands of well-paid skilled jobs have been lost.
At its heart lies the chaos wastage and destruction wrought at Eskom the state-owned power monopoly, once one of the most efficient producers of cheap electricity in the world. There are many reasons for its collapse but at its heart lie the ostensibly progressive policies of BEE and AA. These policies were cover for massive abuses.
Procurement policies that favoured cadres and cronies at the cost of a cheap and reliable coal supply. Employment policies that led to a bloated, overpaid and inefficient work force and a weak, corrupt and ideologically motivated management. BEE and AA are justified but not when the implemented in order to benefit a tiny politically connected elite at the expense of the country.
It has not been empowering, it has not been sustainable, it has been a catastrophe and the poor have paid the highest price, their hope for a better future smashed by the toxic self-interest of a political elite. When we consider policies like BEE and AA we need to dive below the surface to see the content and implementation.
It’s not a question of are they good or bad, it’s a question of how they are implemented. That question has escaped close scrutiny.
We need to ask, what is the content of those policies, how are they implemented?
We need to give them content and meaning to ask what has been achieved, at what cost and what can be done to improve implementation to the greatest advantage of our country and its people. We need to be ruthless in our critique of these holy cows, our future depends on it.