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Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies will have his work cut out in London this week in portraying South Africa as an attractive, stable investment destination.
He will be speaking to informed audiences – businesspeople with links to South Africa, their own sources of market intelligence and separate assessments of the country’s risk factors.
The minister will probably argue that the death of 44 people in unrest three weeks ago at the Lonmin mine at Marikana in North West was particular to that operation. He will probably also say that mining goes on as usual elsewhere – even in North West – and that the government is confident of an amicable resolution to the Lonmin stand-off.
While Davies takes the line of trouble being isolated to Marikana, his listeners will know of dogged agitation by shunned ANC youth leader Julius Malema and his cohorts, openly trying to foment mines confrontation at Marikana and elsewhere.
And those listeners may wonder whether Davies and his colleagues in Pretoria are, again, underestimating the likes of Malema and the general frustrations on which they so ably prey.
The minister’s tack is sure to be close to that of his cabinet colleague, Collins Chabane, who told the Foreign Correspondents Association in Johannesburg on Monday that the government was firmly in control and that law and order still prevailed.
Will Davies’s audiences buy this? Also bothering them will be London-based Lonmin’s losses of 2 500 platinum ounces a day during more than three weeks of paralysis at Marikana.
And those he is talking to will be aware, too, of indecisive government leadership, labour union tensions, and a wider, growing impatience among citizens still waiting for the dividends of democracy – jobs, decent housing, sound education, good health care and so on. Davies has an uphill mission.