South Africans are an argumentative lot - and the country's problems become amplified simply because we shout past each other, National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel told delegates at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Monday.
Instead, Manuel said in his presentation on the National Development Plan (NDP), government and the private sector should "lower the volume of the exchanges so that we can begin to persuade each other".
The two parties needed to recognise what they had in common and move forward, Manuel told delegates to the world's largest mining conference.
'Opportunity to work together'
Transformation was about much more than compliance and should rather be seen as an opportunity for business and government to work together to create an equitable society, he said.
The minister's speech echoed that of President Jacob Zuma after their meeting with other political leaders and senior business representatives in Pretoria on Sunday, where solutions to the country’s economic challenges were discussed.
Zuma commented after the four-hour long meeting that whenever government and business pulled together, "we manage to achieve a lot for our country and its people".
Describing the global mining industry as a "milieu of carelessness", Manuel said resource nationalisation was not a uniquely South African discussion, but rather an issue that has been sharply debated all over the world, in countries such as Australia, Canada and Brazil.
"As South Africans we often feel hard done by, but the issues are global," he said.
Investors' concerns about possible nationalisation of mines in South Africa had been addressed, especially after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) rejected nationalisation as policy at its annual congress in Manguang in November last year.
The party instead resolved to create a state mining company that would compete with the private sector.
"We must build with what we have, not from what we wish we had," Manuel said.
South Africa's history meant the country did not yet have the educated workforce we think we need, for example, but South Africa had rich mineral endowments - and that was what the country needed to make the best of.
Blueprint for development, growth
Manuel is a key architect behind the National Development Plan, which is a blueprint for the country's development and growth. It aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
He worked on the plan with 25 other commissioners, all of them from outside of the government. "This is not a government plan," he insisted. "It is a plan for the future of all South Africans" which used the Constitutional ideal of achieving a better life for all as its starting point.
The government was very committed to the implementation of the NDP, Manuel said, but would need the help of business and industry to make it happen. "Active citizenry and responsible leadership is at the heart of the plan. This is what will lead to realising our Constitutional promise."
This year's Mining Indaba, now in its 19th year, is the largest ever, with around 7 500 delegates from all over the world attending.
Welcoming delegates to the conference on Monday, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the Indaba had generated R336-million and created 3 000 jobs over the past five years.