With the South African national elections only days away, South African political commentator Justice Malala considers the future of the mining industry and concludes that real change is still a long way off.

“South Africa’s fifth democratic elections will be held soon, and although analysts expect the African National Congress  (ANC)to win without much trouble, few expect the party to hold on to its huge majority. From its current 65.9% the ANC’s support could fall to less than 60% according to one group,” Malala said.

Nevertheless, he adds that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) launched recently by former ANC member Julius Malema, a strong proponent of mining nationalisation, would garner little support compared to the Democratic Alliance (DA), which is the ANC’s primary opposition party.

“It is unlikely that new political parties will draw much support away from the ANC in the 2014 election. New parties have also had a very poor success rate since 1994 – with most of their support dwindling rapidly in the years after launching,” adds Malala .

The ANC reiterated its stand against nationalisation at the Mangaung conference. “I don’t think the ANC was ever going to nationalise the mines. However, they did take the decision to add some kind of tax on mining, and this will probably be introduced after the election next year,” said Malala.

Rather than nationalisation, the real challenges for South Africa today are poverty, inequality and unemployment, according to Malala. “Zuma’s presidency has failed to implement necessary structural changes – the ANC is in alliance with the powerful trade union federation Cosatu and kowtows to it on labour policy, leading to government paralysis – to create jobs and economic growth. Education is poor – last year the government failed to deliver textbooks to some pupils for up to nine months.

“The young are ubiquitous on the streets and they are now being attracted in significant numbers by the young, former ANC radical Julius Malema’s breakaway party EFF. It is highly unlikely that these challenges will unseat Mandela’s ANC from power – yet. However, with Mandela gone and the halo of the liberation era slowly slipping away, coupled with revulsion in many quarters of the rampant corruption and stasis of the current regime, a change is coming.”

However, such change will only come with the 2019 national elections, Malala concludes. “In the meantime, South Africa will have a noisy election in 2014, remain on an unremarkable growth path and fail to live up to the promise it showed when Mandela became president in 1994. It is a path that the unemployed young, standing at the fence outside the largesse enjoyed by their leaders, may one day want to tilt at unless something is done, urgently, to improve their lives.”

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