Speaking at a Centre for Development and Enterprise function in Johannesburg on Thursday night, Gwede Mantashe argued strongly for greater State intervention in the economy, including through direct ownership in productive enterprises.
He asserted that certain sectors should be targeted, highlighting the commodity sector in general, and platinum mining in particular.
"I am not talking about nationalisation here," Mantashe stressed, calling instead for a State that participated in productive activities such as through partnerships with private companies in platinum mining.
Such endeavours, he argued, would accelerate the release of additional mineral rights for much-needed platinum production, while safeguarding new financial resources, which could be deployed for wealth redistribution.
The comments were made as platinum jumped to a new record high of above $2 200/oz on Friday on the back of ongoing supply fears as a result of electricity rationing at South African mines. Some observers were even suggesting the metal could test $3 000/oz.
South Africa remained the source of as much as 80% of the precious metal, which is used, primarily, in catalytic systems that clean vehicle emissions.
Mantashe noted that State-ownership models were common in other parts of the world, including in neighbouring Botswana, and lamented the fact that South African business saw it as a threat.
"Every time we raise these issues a red flag is raised and the scarecrow of nationalisation is raised. But the very same companies that fear this are comfortable in doing the same thing in countries such as Botswana, where the State has a 51% shareholding and private companies have 49%," Mantashe argued, alluding here to Debswana, where there is a diamond-mining partnership between De Beers and the Botswana government.
"My view is that, if we want the State to be more active, it must be allowed to have access to resources to play that active role," Mantashe said, adding that he also foresaw a far more active role for development finance institutions such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Industrial Development Corporation.
"I don't think it is unheard of, in a predominantly commodity-based economy, for the State to participate in that sector without taking over from the private sector," he concluded.