South Africa’s ANC May Ignore Moody’s by Increasing Mining Taxes

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will ignore ratings company advice and call for an increase in mining taxes, said Enoch Godongwana, the party’s economic policy head.

The ANC must ensure the lives of poor black South Africans improve or risk giving an opportunity for populist leaders to stir up social unrest and erode the ANC’s dominance, Godongwana, who heads the ANC’s Economic Transformation Committee, said in an interview in Johannesburg yesterday.

“Unless we do some radical transformation, we’ll create fertile ground for an uncontrollable revolution,” he said.

Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s have downgraded the nation’s debt, citing slower economic growth after the worst mining strikes since the end of apartheid and political pressure to raise spending. The ANC holds its five- yearly electoral conference this month, with nominations showing that President Jacob Zuma may face a challenge from his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, amid calls for radical policy changes to tackle a 25.5 percent unemployment rate.

Workers at Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS), Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP), and Lonmin Plc (LMI), the world’s three biggest platinum producers, defied unions by striking for higher pay. The demonstrations spread after police killed 34 protesters at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine on Aug. 16. Julius Malema, the expelled leader of the ANC’s youth wing who led a campaign to nationalize South Africa’s mines, used the demonstrations to help boost his support and criticize Zuma.

Mine Nationalization

Moody’s lowered South Africa’s credit rating by one level to Baa1 and kept it on a negative outlook on Sept. 27, saying the government was unable to “handle the current political and economic situation.” Standard & Poor’s cut its rating by one level to BBB two weeks later, citing concern the strikes would stoke social unrest.

“We’re kind of in a Catch-22 situation because there are people who listen to Moody’s and when we go out there and raise money, it becomes expensive,” Godongwana said. “We may take a hit. We’ve got to make a choice, do we please Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s or do we deal with the kind of constituencies we’re facing. We’re walking that tightrope.”

While Godongwana ruled out the ANC conference agreeing to any form of mine nationalization, he said increased taxes on mining is possible. The party hasn’t identified which minerals would need higher tax as delegates need to consider the effect on the mines, he said.

“It may well be that we will not increase tax on gold because most of the gold mines are marginal,” Godongwana said, referring to their profit margins in comparison to other types of mines.

Rising Risk

South Africa is the world’s biggest producer of platinum and chrome and the fifth-largest miner of gold. The country has an estimated $3.3 trillion of mineral wealth, including coal, gold, copper, platinum and palladium, according to the Department of Mineral Resources last month.

The cost of protecting South African government debt against non-payment using credit default swaps over five years has jumped 17 basis points since the start of the mining strikes on Aug. 10, signaling a deterioration in risk perception.

The rand fell 8.1 percent against the dollar over the same period, the most of 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It was little changed at 8.7919 a dollar by 9:50 a.m. in Johannesburg.

The ANC needs to improve how it runs the government, fixing a “very, very bad” education system and clamping down on corruption, Godongwana said.

After being a banned organization battling against apartheid which members joined for a liberation struggle, 18 years in power has allowed elitism, patronage and corruption to creep into the ANC, Godongwana said.

“Being in government and having access to resources has eroded our value system,” he said. “We’ve got to have some serious introspection.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net; Anne Swardson in Paris at aswardson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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