Driving to a meeting the other morning, I was listening to Radio 702’s John Robbie interviewing a lawyer who he introduced as an international expert on mining issues. I have been following happenings in the mining sector quite closely trying to get a handle on the holistic view of all the negative influences impacting on this sector. On the global front, commodity prices have dropped with the fall-off in demand from China being a major influential factor around this trend. On the local labour front, there is on-going drama with the workers wanting higher wages and the bosses saying they can’t go up there due to increased costs and the fall in profits due to lower prices on the global markets. These are just two influences. There are many more factors at play but the bottom line was encapsulated in a phrase which the lawyer user in the interview with John Robbie. He said: “The mining industry is now heading towards the ‘Perfect Storm’. Wow! That hit me. Not sure if you have seen the movie ‘The Perfect Storm’. Basically the movie is about some guys on a commercial fishing boat out in the middle of the ocean fishing away merrily. They get a record catch and then the ice machine packs up. At the same time, word reaches them that a huge storm is building up between them and their direct path back to the harbour. If they go around the storm, they stand to lose the catch as it will go ‘vrot’ without ice. If they go through the storm, well… They have a team chat and decide to ignore all the warnings and go through the storm. All the other fishing boats heed the warning signs and stay far from the storm. The guys on that boat, however, decide to go through it. They have a record catch on board which will fill their pockets with big bucks. So they go for it. The end result is that the boat gets battered by the storm, it sinks and all on board die. Those who chose to avoid the storm live to see another day.
Let’s now switch to a local television channel on the very same afternoon as the John Robbie interview. President Zuma is in Parliament to answer questions from opposition parties. We all knew that the EFF would hit the ‘pay back the money’ button once again but what I saw in Parliament that day scared me as much as the words of the lawyer regarding the mining industry heading towards the ‘Perfect Storm.’ I didn’t see any interest shown in the wider issues facing all South Africans. What I did see is what we have become so used to in this country – an on-going shambles around one man, President Jacob Zuma and his stupid, endlessly irritating, obscene, no value adding homestead called Nkandla. The storm that Zuma has created around this dumb place is nothing compared to the storm that the country’s mining sector is facing yet Zuma continues sailing his little ship – filled with his record catch fished from the waters of South African society – happily along while all around him a storm is brewing for the country. This man has become the greatest liability South Africa has ever had. He has no leadership capabilities, no in-depth insight into the wider issues facing our country and is about as far from being a statesman as I am from being a blinking politician.
He demonstrated this aptly when answering – or more accurately, not answering – the questions put to him in Parliament. For example, he was clueless about the decision by Mineral Resources Minister Ngaoko Ramatlhodi to suspend Glencore’s coal mining licence after retrenchments took place at the mine saying he had not been briefed on the matter. His profound answer when asked what investors would make of Ramatlhodi’s actions, was: “I can’t be a sangoma.” There were other questions he could not answer even going so far as to say to one question that it was the first time he had heard of it. This was related to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s comments on possible corruption in the judiciary. And talking of police, who in their right mind would appoint a person to head the national police service in a country that has one of the highest murder rates in the world knowing that person hasn’t had one day’s policing experience. Yet Zuma did just that – and now, after the Marikana massacre, that same person, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, has to justify to Zuma why she is fit to hold the position. May I suggest rather that Zuma justifies and explains to this country why he elected her to that position in the first place. Why did he do it knowing she had no experience and could never manage the job? I can mention many more positions that Zuma has had a direct hand in filling with inept and unqualified officials. Why President Zuma, have you done this? Why have you put yourself and your own personal interests above those of South Africa? What gives you the right to destroy a country that was entrusted to you to grow for the good of all? You do not have this right – yet you are exercising this right as a given.
But what has all this to do with trucking, our readers may ask? If you do ask that question, you’re not looking at the full picture. Close the mines – or even reduce their outputs – and you will kill hundreds of jobs in the trucking industry and put hundreds of trucks on blocks. That will be just part of the ravages of the Perfect Storm – and it has already happened. The Chinese closed a mine in Phalaborwa due to it being uneconomical and I heard that as many as 500 trucks were either put on blocks, sold out of their companies or, for those companies fortunate enough to be able to do so, were reallocated to other contracts. The impact on trucking was severe. And it could get worse – not only in the mining industry but in all industry sectors. Yes, there are things that are out of our control – the impact of China’s reduced growth on commodity prices for example. However, there is a lot that is in our control and yet is being ignored while our so-called leaders – and especially Number 1 – rule with blinkers on, blissfully ignorant of anything around them bar what they can sniff out of the trough. I’m sick of it and would just like to point out to President Zuma that in the movie described above, the captain who ignored the warnings went down with the ship. He drowned in the ‘Perfect Storm’. And here’s the real scary part Mr President. The movie was based on a true life story. Take heed.