LETTER: Sold down the river
Economic nationalism is a logical response to the philosophy of major SA corporations to move their domicile offshore in the 1990s
Sifiso Skenjana’s proposal that SA adopt a policy of economic nationalism is a logical response to the failure of the neoliberal philosophy based on the Washington Consensus, which allowed major SA corporations to move their domicile offshore in the 1990s and the takeover of SA companies by foreign owners (Economic nationalism is a positive way forward, April 10).
Expecting Gencor (which listed in London as Billiton) and Anglo American to continue to invest in SA when they were in a position to cherry-pick their investments in the whole wide world was incredibly naive, and it beggars belief that these and other companies that were allowed to move offshore were not required to make a public commitment to future investments in SA.
The obvious question is: who benefited from these overseas listings? Certainly the CEOs who moved to greener pastures and became fabulously rich strutting their stuff on the world stage, but what benefits did the overseas listings bring to SA?
The loss of Anglo American has been a disastrous loss of irreplaceable developmental capacity. What other company or government institution in SA today could develop a project on the scale of Highveld Steel and Vanadium, which Anglo irresponsibly sold to Russian-owned Evraz and is now in business rescue?
The sale of companies such as Iscor and Columbus Stainless Steel to foreign companies may also not be in the national interest unless controls are in place to ensure these companies are operated for the benefit of SA and not for their international interests.
Finally, it is a myth that the SA mining houses did not beneficiate minerals and promote industry. Beneficiation has regressed due to the lack of cheap and reliable power from Eskom. The conglomerate structure of the domestically based mining houses was far better suited to promote beneficiation and industrialisation than foreign-based specialist mining companies with limited commitment to SA beyond their mining projects.