12 June 2019

South Africa: Obituary - After the Marikana Massacre, the Writing Was On the Wall for Lonmin


Lonmin, which at one time was the world's third-largest platinum producer, died on Friday, 7 June, at the age of 110. This script was not set in stone. The company faced many of the challenges that confronted its rivals, some of whom are now thriving. These included depressed prices, unyielding geology, and waves of social and labour unrest. In the end, the boardroom dug its own grave as a series of poor management decisions ultimately laid the company to rest.

Lonmin was initially christened in 1909 as the London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company Limited. Focused on mining and ranching, it was at one point an unprofitable flop, foreshadowing its eventual fate. "Tiny" Rowland, a corporate raider and maverick, would take up the reins and transform the group into a sprawling African business empire.

The former British prime minister Edward Heath once famously said that Rowland represented "an unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism", but he was a successful face and one that was regarded as acceptable by many of the first wave of African leaders who lead their emergent nations from colonialism. On his death in 1998, Nelson Mandela hailed his "enormous contribution, not only to South Africa...

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