Business is treating the ruling party and South Africans "with disdain", which is exposing its attempt to control the African National Congress (ANC), its secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.
Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats’s) plan to mothball four shafts and sell a mine, which would lead to 14,000 jobs being lost, and First National Bank’s (FNB’s) latest advertising campaign have exposed the fissures in the relationship between business and the ruling party.
Mr Mantashe will lead an ANC delegation that will meet with FNB’s top management at the party’s headquarters today, to discuss its advertising campaign, which the party’s youth league described as "treasonous". First Rand CE Sizwe Nxasana will lead the banking group’s delegation.
Mr Mantashe said big business ignored the ANC’s "genuine" openness to listen to them — which was demonstrated by how seriously business’s policy inputs were considered at its conference last month.
The ANC had pushed back a call for the outright nationalisation of mines and other sectors. Its leaders now believe their sensitivity is being disregarded by hypercritical business leaders.
Mr Mantashe said the ANC had five meetings with business representatives last year, but they continued on their "unpatriotic" path, which showed their "disdain" for the ANC.
It appeared that business wanted to control the party, he said. "We can’t do that. We can’t give them the ANC," he said in an interview on Thursday.
Mr Mantashe dismissed as "self-hate" questions about Harmony’s impending retrenchment of 6,000 workers — which has not raised eyebrows in the ANC, while Amplats was being threatened with the withdrawal of its mining licence. Mr Mantashe said it showed "self-hate" to suggest that Harmony was spared criticism because it was chaired by Patrice Motsepe, a generous funder of the ruling party.
He said people such as Mr Motsepe and Cyril Ramaphosa — the ANC’s deputy president who was caught in the Marikana massacre crossfire because he was a director of Lonmin — were scrutinised while people who had bigger stakes in these companies were let off the hook.
Mr Mantashe said that Amplats was merely "ticking boxes" by announcing its mothballing and retrenchment plans, as opposed to Harmony following normal communication and consultation procedures.
Mr Mantashe said the government’s job-creation plans were "suffering", because the private sector was not taking to heart its developmental duties, leaving the government to play the role of lead creator of jobs.
The directors of companies that were built in SA, but which have since relocated and are listed on foreign stock exchanges, were particularly bad in the way they regarded SA, he said.
They "treated the country like visitors", although they owed their existence to SA.
Anglo American moved its corporate offices to London, but has a dual listing on the London Stock Exchange and the JSE.
Black Business Council spokesman Sandile Zungu said on Thursday the voice of business should not be muzzled in SA.
He said the private sector needed to be "measured" and find a way to voice its concerns without destroying relations. The government is generally receptive to constructive criticism.
"Business leaders should be free to express themselves, but decorum is very important," Mr Zungu said.