Lebo Keswa
One of the loudest choruses across the political spectrum and across all factions of the ruling alliance is the dire need for transformation of the economy. In these pages and elsewhere, I have not found anyone arguing against the need for transformation of the economy.

What I have found, though, is that we are poles apart about how to go about achieving this need and our differences on this approach divide even forces in our body politic that are supposed to be on the same side to achieve this goal in tackling the horrendous economic challenges that are facing society.

Add the deepening greed and graft to the equation and you are left with an added scepticism about some of the interventions that are being done in the name of radical economic transformation or expressions espoused against white monopoly capital.

With this situation, I believe the loser will be the actual transformation project and therefore leave the populace poorer.

The most recent example of how the project will be the victim of political egos is the issue of land.

We saw ANC politicians saying different things on the land question ahead of the policy conference.

At the centre of this was a need not to be seen to be endorsing a policy position of the hated opposition that was born of its own.

The extent to which the land question can change the fortunes of society, in an ideal world, should matter beyond the political contestation.

The drama and pretence since this matter has been on the table have shown that we are far from elevating the interests of the people above political point-scoring.

The fact that the ANC has not brought itself to find a way to collaborate with the EFF on resolving this issue clearly points to the political contestation reality - in other words, if the land question is resolved, who will take credit for it?

The second recent example of the spite-your-face approach to our latter-day politics is the terribly clumsy way in which Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has handled the necessary campaign to transform the mining industry.

I have yet to meet anyone in the industry who is opposed to transformation, but it is clear that those who are can use the haphazard approach Zwane has taken to thwart that project.

It's clear that after 23 years the extent of transformation is highly unacceptable.

In that context, the question still arises: Has our constitution not provided enough safeguards and directives to guide the government to consult society about how to pull together to build a new nation that will serve all citizens?

The wiping of R52billion off the face of our economy as a result of the minister’s reckless actions doesn’t look like the brightest way to go about ensuring radical change.

As if this is not enough, Zwane, with even limited consultation, has ground the industry to a halt through a gazette that brings key investment activity to a standstill.

This action does not take into account the fact that there are major backlogs of prospecting in this industry - the only key indicator of future investment and confidence-building.

There is something that does not add up when you assess how the ANC has approached these two cardinal economic transformation interventions.

There is no arguing with some of the charter’s policy undertones - both the raising of the threshold for black ownership and the fresh approach to community involvement are noble ideals.

Some of the other strange details about favouring types of shareholders in business can be open for debate when the fundamentals of trust between the negotiating parties are bedded down. The seeming attempt by Zwane to run roughshod over 90% of the industry does not bode well for the success of the transformation project overall.

The industry, as a result, is in court pursuing three separate cases, and the freezing of the implementation of the charter is a bad omen for the pursuit of sustainable change in the industry. The approach and attitude of business must also come under scrutiny.

In 2002, when the mining charter draft was leaked, billions - even then - left our shores.

It seems a knee-jerk reaction of inevitable change is an adverse market reaction.

One would have thought that the backtracking of the government then from 50% envisaged by the leaked charter to almost half of the target would have engendered some goodwill from business.

The reality is that the Marikana tragedy had all the hallmarks of an industry in reverse gear.

The living conditions of workers alone tell a story of an industry that is only focusing on profit motive and nothing else.

Add this to the utter neglect of communities surrounding mines and you are left with a bitter taste in the mouth about what the industry’s real intentions are.

When all is said and done, there seems to be a gulf so big between business and the government that once again the transformation project will be the biggest loser.

The government has to get its act together in aligning its message and strategy for transformation to ensure we don’t have a situation as we have seen this past week, where a deputy minister and minister are not even on the same page about a crucial strategy for achieving change.

Business, on the other side, must do urgent introspection about its real commitment to change.

It cannot be right that 23 years down the line they are still not forthcoming about their concrete commitment to change the face of a crucial industry.

Both parties have to take seriously the growing trust deficit that, so far, has been responsible in great measure for the horrible economic indicators underlined by multiple downgrades, poor economic growth and now the dangerous recession that threatens to stump the country’s economic fortunes.

* Keswa is a businesswoman and writes in her personal capacity. Follow her on Twitter: @lebokeswa

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

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