Margaret Thatcher has died. I am old enough to remember the sometimes-fraught period in Britain when Margaret Thatcher was its prime minister. The Unions were realising the extent of the influence that they could wield, and were using this power, some say, to the detriment of the nation.

Thatcher was a prime minister of courage and had a clear vision of what needed to be done at the time. And though she is still reviled by many, she arrested the decline of a nation which was experiencing high unemployment and was held in the thrall of organised labour.

Socialism is a philosophy, which would work well in an ideal world. However, as Robert Townsend points out in his pithy little book ‘Up the Organisation’, without our natural rapacity, mankind would not have achieved what it has. We might still be running around the koppies with sharpened sticks chasing our next meal.

Some of Thatcher’s vision and rectitude could be used right now in South Africa. It is sometimes very difficult to do the ‘right thing’. And while I have mentioned our natural bent for avarice and accumulation, we also, for some odd reason, have reserves of altruism, which has, from time to time, seen individuals acting in a remarkably unselfish manner.

In South Africa, many of us live by the ‘me first’ philosophy, something which Townsend would understand, if not approve of. Many of us have witnessed this thinking in action when waiting in a queue of traffic. Some motorists are not governed by the need to wait one’s turn and nudge their way in at the head of the queue. I remonstrated with one such driver recently only to receive the reply: ‘But I am in a hurry.’

The ‘me first’ philosophy keeps on rearing its head in the government of many African countries. In South Africa, we see a civil service where the words ‘civil’ and ‘service’ are not ones that can be readily applied. This philosophy of ‘me first’ also applies to the sexual conduct of many of South Africa’s men. It is deplorable that the desire to have carnal relations overrides the rights of others to such an extent that South Africa is now known as ‘the rape capital’ of the world.

What has all of this got to do with mining? Quite simply, to set up a mine requires long-term vision and commitment. There are no one-month gold or platinum mines that I know of. However, mining is not possible, or at least is very difficult, in a country where the government has short-term vision and when the drive for selfadvancement and enrichment overrides the need to serve the common good.

On a different tack, in this edition, we feature, among others a very readable article by Otsile Matlou, a senior employee at ENS law firm. To digress momentarily, it must be noted that even members of the legal profession have a sense of humour. I had to phone Otsile to discuss some minor edits to his article and mentioned in passing that I thought, for a lawyer, he wrote really well. This elicited a dry chuckle on the other end of the receiver.

However, if you are involved in the mining industry in South Africa, I urge you to read Otsile’s article. It is disturbing to think what might happen to our natural resources industry should the amendments of the MPRDA become law. While you are delving into the magazine, also read about companies involved in West Africa’s iron ore boom – particularly an article about the gold explorer, Roxgold, which will be bringing an orebody with a ten-year life of mine into production. The interesting thing about Roxgold is the Yaramoko orebody, which boasts a grade of nearly 23 grams a ton. Remarkable.

Read further articles from Mining Reviw Africa edition 5 here.