Paul Mashatile. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Paul Mashatile. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Paul Mashatile, treasurer-general of the ANC, told business leaders at a conference on the future of South Africa that the issue of expropriation of land without compensation has to be addressed in a manner that does not disrupt the economy and in a way that provides redress for injustices of the past.

He said land and access to land had been taken from the majority in the past. "It’s not just private land, we’ve done an audit of state land and also land in the hands of absentee landowners," said Mashatile, adding that if people were given land they must also be given support. He said the need for land was not only in rural areas. In urban areas land was needed to build houses and factories.

Jabu Mabuza, head of Business Leadership SA (BLSA) and recently appointed chair of Eskom, told the predominantly white male audience, that the land issue had to be dealt with. "We mustn’t become hysterical, BLSA has agreed we are going to stand up and participate in the discussion, it’s very emotive but we have to recognise things can’t be the same."

Colin Coleman, head of sub-Saharan Africa at Goldman Sachs Group, said the land expropriation issue was reminiscent of the nationalisation of mining debate of three years ago. "But this time we will have a rational discussion."

Mabuza said jobs and inequality were the two most important issues facing the country.

"But business people don’t wake up and think how many more people can I employ, they wake up and wonder how can I make more money."

Magda Wierzycka, CEO at Sygnia asset management, said the country’s approach to its challenges had to be multifaceted and had to include the government.

She suggested the introduction of legislation requiring pension funds to dedicate 5% of their investments to an infrastructure programme.

"This would allow us to employ the money that is already in the country, there is a new optimism, which means people will be more willing to invest in the country," said Wierzycka.

But she stressed that the government must put robust financial structures in place to ensure the money was not stolen or wasted.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said business, labour and the government should create a social compact and take co-responsibility with a sense of purpose. He said economic growth had to be more inclusive.

"Part of the land question is addressing the issue of inclusivity. Who benefits from globalisation and international trade?"

Anglo American chief Mark Cutifani said the South African mining industry should be twice the size it is today but had lost out because of what had happened during the past five to ten years.

"We can turn it around, with policy certainty and working together," said Cutifani, who believes the country is ideally placed to create a global industry from its mineral resources. He said the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Mining Charter could be part of a partnership framework that dealt with the promotion of the platinum industry. Cutifani said from the mining industry’s point of view South Africa’s future had just got a lot brighter.