If you were worried that Julius Malema’s lifestyle problems would deplete the wind from their sails, worry no more: late on Wednesday, the ANC Youth League lashed out at the appointment of former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni as chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, calling him a string of names and classing him as a “co-opted black reactionary”. Classy.
The league is clearly incensed that a person who once denied that mines would be nationalised is now being made head of one, claiming that this is payback for “protecting the interests of male white capital”. In fact, Mboweni did not actually come out for or against mine nationalisation as much as predict that the argument in favour of nationalisation would not gain traction within the ANC.
At his valedictory speech delivered in October last year in Phokeng, the heart of the platinum mining area, Mboweni argued that government had just taken over mining rights and didn’t want to start another “difficult process”. At the time he said: “I don’t think that argument is going to gain traction; I don’t think it is going to get support.”
The Youth League vigorously – and somewhat dementedly – opposed this argument, saying his appointment reflects the “reactionary, nonsensical and backward views he expressed when he was the mis-Governor of the South African Reserve Bank that Mines will not be nationalised in South Africa”. Notwithstanding the Youth League’s hysteria, it seems Mboweni’s prediction is, in fact, holding out, since President Jacob Zuma recently went slightly further than he has ever gone before on the subject, saying the nationalisation debate was apparently an issue for the Youth League but no-one else.
AngloGold Ashanti chose to focus on a different aspect of the former governor’s skill-set, highlighting the fact that he is a former labour minister, and suggesting his understanding of labour issues might help in the typically fractious labour relations which bedevil the mining industry. “Mboweni was (an) architect of SA’s post-apartheid labour legislation, which today continues to provide the basis for the mutually respectful labour relationships central to AngloGold’s operational approach in SA,” the company said.
The appointment is the second board position Mboweni has accepted, the first being at packaging company Nampak, settling the debate about his future direction; politics is out, being man about town is in.
By Tim Cohen