SHORT of rolling out a huge red carpet in Marikana with the words “Welcome, Julius Malema, all is forgiven” embroidered onto it, the ANC has done its best to ensure the triumphal return of the former Youth League leader.

President Jacob Zuma tried to make up some lost ground this week, visiting the mine and listening to the strikers’ grievances. But the government and the ANC will find it hard to correct the damage done not only by the police but by some ANC, Cosatu and SACP leaders who have gone to extraordinary lengths to stigmatise the strikers and their union, with Blade Nzimande even suggesting that Amcu is being funded by business.

Malema has been quick to seize the opportunity to present himself as the strikers’ ally and to revive the idea of nationalising the mines.

That idea is not going to go away, at least not while conditions on the mines and the settlements that surround them are what they are.

In spite of the signing of the Mining Charter in 2002 by the government, business and labour, mining is much as it has always been. The charter was designed to promote equitable access to mineral resources, open up the industry to black people and women, develop skills and beneficiation, and, crucially, promote jobs and social welfare in the communities around the mines. But the first five-year review by the Department of Mineral Resources, in 2009, found that very little of this had taken place.

Investment in skills was poor; most companies hadn’t even bothered to submit employment equity plans; social investment was inadequate; occupancy rates in hostels were still unacceptably high and living conditions unhygienic; the proliferation of “living-out allowances” had led to the spread of informal settlements; and black ownership in mining had reached 9 percent, “at best” concentrated in the hands of a few – contrary, as the department notes, to the Freedom Charter and the Mining Charter.

When she comes back from her international roadshow to reassure investors, Susan Shabangu might like to spend some time enforcing the charter’s provisions.