By 06/09/2012

Lonmin Revisited

In South Africa the Lonmin struggle continues… with autopsy reports of the police-led massacre now conclusively demonstrating that “most of the people were fleeing from the police when they got killed.” If this was not bad enough, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) even initiated proceedings to use ‘common purpose’ Apartheid-era legislation to prosecute 270 of the striking miners for the murder of their 34 comrades! Widespread public anger however forced the NPA to back down.

As noted previously, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has played a central role in undermining working class interests: with the likes of NUM’s recent Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, joining the board room of mining giant Samancor in the mid-1990s; and NUM’s founding Secretary General, Cyril Ramaphosa, now acting as a board member of Lonmin.

Following on from such toxic union-corporate connections, another Lonmin director, Len Konar, recently served on the board of directors of the Development Bank of Southern Africa [1] — where he worked alongside the former COSUTU General Secretary, Jayaseelan Naidoo. During this duo’s time as directors of the Development Bank, both rubbed shoulders with current board member Wendy Lucas-Bull, who is a director of the world’s leading platinum mining corporation, Anglo American Platinum. This brings us neatly on to two of Lucas-Bull’s current comrade’s-in-arms on the Development Bank’s board room: the current NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni, and the Bank’s lead Director, Jabulani Moleketi, who is the former Deputy Minister of Finance for President Thabo Mbeki.

With no sense of irony, Jabulani Moleketi’s wife, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, serves as an advisor to a recently launched UN-initiative known as the International Anti-Corruption Academy — whose main purpose is simply to intensify the imperial exploitation of so-called corrupt countries (for a related discussion of such phenomena, see “Seeing through Transparency International“).

Jabulani however, as one might expect, works for numerous assorted (dare one suggest corrupt) corporate interests, but his membership of the board room of MMI Holdings is most interesting in the context of this article. This is because at MMI he sits alongside Benedict van der Ross, [2] a man who from 1985 until 1990 served as a board member of the Urban Foundation — a liberalising think tank devoted to urban policy. This Foundation was set up in the immediate wake of the 1976 Soweto riots by Anglo American’s Harry Oppenheimer and fellow ‘greenie’ industrialist Anton Rupert, who served as the groups founding chair and vice chair respectively.

In a fitting reminder to how radical leaders can be co-opted to the capitalist state apparatus, one should observe that despite the Urban Foundation’s “untiring… search for minor palliatives for apartheid” one of their “leading” strategists turned out to be the former leading scholar for the South African Communist Party, Jeff McCarthy. In addition, another former Communist Party activist, who during the 1980s worked with the Foundation to focus “on the crafty goal of making neoliberal African economic policies appear to be ‘homegrown’”, was Geoffrey Lamb (now with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) — a radical who underwent his political reorientation in England along with another former Communist Party ideologue, South Africa’s recent President, Thabo Mbeki. [3]

Returning to MMI Holdings, another important MMI director is Khehla Shubane, who is a board member of Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) Holdings and recently stepped down as a representative of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation of South Africa. (For criticisms of this important group’s role in the transition from apartheid, see “George Soros And South Africa’s Elite Transition.”) Unfortunately it seems that the ruling-class founders of the Urban Foundation still exert massive control over South Africa’s economy. Thus the current chair of RMB Holdings is former Anglo American director Gerrit Thomas Ferreir who is presently a board member of Anton Rupert’s investment holding company Remgro Limited. [4]

One might note here that Jabu Moleketi is counted as a current Remgro board member; while other ruling-class ‘liberals’ serving on Remgro’s board include Murphy Morobe (who is a former board member of the Open Society Foundation of South Africa) and Anglo American board member Mamphela Ramphele, who is a current board member of Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the chair of Gold Fields Ltd. [5] (Note: “inspired by the resistance of the Marikana miners, the platinum mine revolt has shifted to the gold sector, with 12,500 mine workers at Gold Field’s Kloof Driefontein complex downing tools illegally on Wednesday, 29 August.”)

Finally, the former head of the Project Finance South Africa business unit at the Lonmin-connected Development Bank of Southern Africa is Phuti Mahanyele, who in 1996 completed her MBA from none other than De Montfort University in Leicester. Mahanyele is presently the CEO of the African investment holding company known as the Shanduka Group, sitting alongside board members that include NUM’s founding President and now current deputy-chair of AngloGold Ashanti, James Motlatsi; and Shanduka’s chairman Cyril Ramaphosa, who as noted at the beginning of this article was NUM’s founding Secretary General and is a current board member of Lonmin. [6]


[1] Mandla Gantsho, the former CEO of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (2001-6), is a current board member of Impala Platinum.

[2] Benedict van der Ross is a board member of leading multinational media group, Naspers, where he sits alongside Fred Phaswana, who is also a board member of Anglo American Platinum.

[3] Patrick Bond, Elite Transition: From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa (Pluto Press, 2000), p.95, pp.97-8, pp.123-4.

[4] Another RMB Holdings board member is Niall Carroll, who is a director of Impala Platinum.

[5] Gold Field board member, Rick Menell, is the son of mining kingpin Clive Menell, who was one of the cofounders of the Urban Foundation. Rick is a board member of the Weir Group plc, where he serves alongside the Lonmin’s former Chief Financial Officer, Alan Ferguson.

[6] Former NUM leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, is also the chairman of the multi-national telecommunications group, GTN, where his fellow board members include MMI chairman, Johnson Njeke. An important recent GTN board member is Mamphela Ramphele.