REVIEW of Nationalisation compiled by Temba Nolutshungu

Title of the Book: Nationalisation, pp 164, 2011

Produced by: Free Market Foundation, Johannesburg and Cape Town

Compiler: Temba A Nolutshungu

Editor: Joan Evans

Research for case studies: Gavin Ray

I have just finished reading the book, Nationalisation. It is a product of many authors of both academic and business standing. There is no doubt that the authors of this book are experts on the subject in question. The book treats almost every aspect of the South African economy around which nationalisation evolves. It touches unemployment, employment, education, health, etc. and how these areas of the economy could be affected by “blind nationalisation”.


The language is very impressive with penetrating political insight. It is a systematic coverage of the subject “nationalisation”. The assessment is presented with a professional touch. The authors of the book do not pull punches; they are scrupulously out to make a statement and a fair contribution to the South African milieu. For the students of political science and history, scholars and the business people, the analysis is refreshingly objective. One could recommend this collection for libraries and anybody else with a healthy sense of curiosity for our future and how it is being shaped by politicians.


Since 1994, the concept of nationalisation bedevilled and dominated discussions within the ANC and its partners. It is a historical fact, that the ANC is a nationalist organisation whose interests are politically and diametrically opposed to nationalisation. It is interesting to note that it is actually the young nationalists within the ANC Youth League who are strongly canvassing for the implementation of nationalisation. One would expect that such a demand could come from the union movement (COSATU) and the SACP, since the two are ideologically the foundation of socialist concepts. The acquiescence of the SACP / COSATU about the debates on nationalisation is cause for consternation amongst the people. The fact that it comes from the ANCYL, is suspect.

Does this move by the ANCYL demonstrate that there is ideological shift from within the Youth League itself and the mother body? Are these young people talking about nationalisation in the classical sense of the word? Since nobody is certain about this, we will have to take a wait-and-see attitude. Since the SACP/COSATU axis and the ANC on the other side, seem to be uncertain as to what line of action to take, the ANCYL's consistency seems to be wrecking havoc within the Tripartite Alliance. What we see is that the intransigence of the Youth League is constantly causing unprecedented schisms within both socialists and nationalists in the Tripartite Alliance. Does this consistency of the Youth League expose the SACP/COSATU axis of having abandoned their socialist stance or of being politically and ideologically bankrupt? As for the ANC, are they being told that they are drifting away from the Freedom Charter? (a not so socialist document)  

Since there is this uncertainty within the ruling party and its alliance, at least the question of implementation of nationalisation of mines remains remote. The question is; do we really have communists and socialists in the South African context who reflect classical inclinations towards Marxist-Leninist leanings? Ben Turok, Jeremy Cronin and Blade Nzimande are all serving in the nationalist structures as cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament. As we know, the worst enemy of socialism is nationalism. If that be the case, the three live with serious contradictions, a breach and a betrayal of what they purport to stand for. The least that can be said about them is that they are political and ideological quislings. What about COSATU? Are they representatives of the working class, at least from a Marxist point of view? The answer is, they are not – they live, eat, sleep and stay with the upper class in the suburbs. They drive the same cars that are driven by the bourgeoisies. There seem to be no contradiction between them and bourgeoisies – they are nothing else but aristocrats and barons of labour. They are not for the demands of the workers, they are instead for bargaining. They are nothing else but bargaining councils. They have deserted the workers. If COSATU and SACP live with these contradictions, one would not expect them to be vocal about a serious issue like nationalisation.

As to why the Youth League is mounting such a lot of pressure on the ANC is a thing to be seen. In some quarters, it is being argued that the Youth League is using this as a ploy for preconceived ideas. As to what those ideas are, we are not told. If you are into reading, then this is a good book to look into. It sets up the stage for debate. The book covers everything that would make nationalisation of mines in South Africa, unattainable and a mere pipe-dream. Their arguments are strong and compelling. The debate is clearly directed to the ANCYL's strategic documents which is proposing the nationalisation of mines. The authors argue that there is nothing in the Freedom Charter or the constitution of the land that echoes sentiments towards nationalisation of the mines. They further argue that nowhere in the world where nationalisation was tested and implemented did poverty and unemployment disappear. Theirs is not rhetoric but facts, strengthened by statistics and research. They seriously doubt if the Youth League has enough knowledge of what it is toying around with. They see the ANCYL's behaviour as dangerous for what they see as an economy that is transforming itself to the right direction. They do not mince their words about free market economy. They question the very idea of giving power to the government to run and regulate the minerals of this country. They see this as the catastrophe that will drive foreign investors away and a blow to surging black middle class or black magnates for that matter. The fact that the ANCYL are looking to China and India as possible alternatives to the Americans, does not solve the problem nor will it make nationalisation workable. India and China are in South Africa for their own interests and not for the interests of the workers that the ANCYL purports they will protect. They question if whether with nationalisation, would poverty and unemployment disappear? They further question if  whether the wages and work place conditions of the workers automatically improve? The authors of this book seriously doubt if the ANCYL understand the very Freedom Charter they have pushed to the centre stage about nationalisation. The authors also observe how skilfully the word 'nationalisation' was avoided and omitted by the authors of the Freedom Charter. They fully support their findings by quoting Ben Turok, the author of a clause in the Freedom Charter that the proponents of nationalisation are constantly using to buttress their arguments. Turok denies that the said clause intended the nationalisation of mines. They further demonstrate how Mandela who used the same clause in the past, now concedes that he misunderstood it. It is interesting to note that Turok is a socialist himself. Was Mandela at that time merely fired and inspired by youthful immoderacy nor was he echoing the political expediency of that time?

Meticulously compiled by Temba Nolutshungu, who in the preface of the book gives a clear outline to the reader as to the position of each author in the book, the book is a must read. At the same time, perhaps it will need a strong rebut from the proponents of nationalisation and in particular the SACP?COSATU axis and ANCYL. The book is written in a straight forward and simple style which I think will give it a wider readership. There is no doubt the book opens interesting debates. I will personally recommend it to be used as a semester apparatus for institutions of higher learning. It must also be a prescribed book for the students of history, economics and political science. The assurance by President Zuma to the business world here and abroad that nationalisation does not form part of a broader policy of the ANC and that the Freedom Charter itself is not a policy document of the ANC needs to be unpacked for ordinary citizens to understand.

It is difficult for the COSATU/SACP axis to pronounce openly and strong enough as to their position on nationalisation debacle because they are bed – fellows with nationalist (ANC) and strange ones for that matter. In terms of this important debate, the COSATU/SACP axis should come to the party. It will be perilous for the ANC to undermine the present international political ethos where (capitalism) free market economy is the order of the day by conceding to the demands for nationalisation.

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