President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

Sure, it’s an election year. But there was still plenty of significance in the fact that Cyril Ramaphosa this week became the first SA president to speak at the Mining Indaba in its 25 years of existence.

As you’d expect, he made all the right noises — as if going out of his way to differentiate himself from his predecessor, and to distance his mining policies from those of the comically inept former mining minister, Mosebenzi Zwane. "We want to see you not in the courts, but in your boardrooms, where we can talk and debate," he said.

Ramaphosa also reassured investors about land expropriation. "Our approach to this matter will enhance, rather than undermine, property rights," he said.

And investors responded with rapturous applause.

Nonetheless, they’ll keep their chequebooks firmly closed until after the elections in May — not least because they want to see how much support Julius Malema’s EFF can pull in the mining communities.

As Warren Beech, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells, put it: "To actually push the button to spend the money, I think we’ll only see that June, July."

It’s only then that we’ll get an inkling of what politicians are willing to do, not just say. And on this metric, the ANC has far more to do to reassure investors.