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……‘Mogul—an important or powerful person’, ‘Minion—a servile dependent’. Collins English Dictionary.

The dress rehearsals for the 2010 Soccer World Cup have been successful and, short of an apocalyptic event, well over 10 million visitors annually are predicted to visit South Africa in future years.

The coffers of the sports bodies will be overflowing and the bonuses of the moguls, their executive board members, will be exceeded only by those of payments to the top elite international superstars. But undoubtedly, this event will put us in the first league of a destination for similar events and a catalyst for an already booming tourism bonanza, which will provide a contribution to GDP exceeding that of the gold mining industry. Luxury game lodges and hotels will be the main beneficiaries. The extent that the impoverished community will benefit is not clear. It is claimed that over a million new jobs have been created by the allocation of 2010 to South Africa. Apart from the sporting events and tourism, it has been estimated that an additional million jobs have been created by the success of the home building campaign and other infrastructure improvements.

These are impressive figures. But even allowing for the recession and several hundred thousand retrenchments, they do not tally with the recent official statistics that
unemployment has increased by 3%. I can only think that the millions claimed are rhetorical figures. Certainly all impressions are that unemployment has increased steadily over the last decade and the incoming cabinet rates this problem as a crisis. I shudder to think what will happen after July 2010. It seems that a fundamental characteristic of the current global capitalism will extend into South Africa. The moguls will get richer and the minions will get poorer!

Some other important announcements from the newly appointed government are also of great interest in terms of the election promise to put job creation as top priority. The Department of Science and Technology has announced a fundamental decision about future areas for promoting technology and specifically aimed at job creation.

The most recent and dramatic is the decision to create a major national programme of research, ‘HYSA’, which is to focus on the ‘Hydrogen Economy’ as a most promising energy concept to reduce global warming and to establish those new industries to promote added value to mineral resources.

The essence of HYSA is the development of the ‘fuel cell’ for producing electrical energy from hydrogen and oxygen using platinum catalytic electrodes. This will promote the added value processing our platinum resources and the creation of employment opportunities. The ultimate will be for South Africa to supply the world with fuel-cell-based transportation and power-producing equipment. This is a profound challenge.

It becomes even more demanding when coupled to another press release reporting a breakthrough in successful production in SA of the ceramic pebble fuel elements for the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor. This is certainly a feather in the cap for South African nuclear materials scientists. In the press release it was indicated that the South African PBMR concept had fallen out of the race to produce competitive reactors for electric power production. It is now the ambition to produce a source of industrial heat for chemical and metallurgical use, and potentially for producing ‘green hydrogen’ for the HYSA fuel cells.

This is undoubtedly the largest scientific/technological undertaking at present involving many hundreds of South African and international professional graduates. The
ultimate mission is to manufacture PBMR reactors and their ceramic fuels in SA.

Also announced is the go-ahead for the calling of tenders for the ‘Meerkat’ project, which is to erect a small pilot version, large array radio telescope in the Karoo to
show the world that we, in South Africa, are the preferred nation to build the final version. This too will not only place South Africa ahead of Australia in the race but will, it is claimed, also produce many new jobs.

Not having seen the relevant detailed reports, I consider it unthinkable to query the scientific erudition in instigating these highly strategic programmes. That we shall generate many elite technical moguls, I have no doubt.

I do, however, once again query the almost ubiquitous claim that these endeavours are going to provide employment to the impoverished communities. The implied
jobs in these super-science programmes demand a high level of technical ability. Starting decades behind many competitors, there is no way to bring our unemployed
population up to speed in any meaningful numbers or feasible timescale.

To dispel such negativity and be positive, I firmly believe that using pragmatic but modern technology and a lot of dedication to a national crusade, there exists a
pathway which could lead to reducing unemployment and poverty levels to that of the first world.

In my Journal Comment in the April issue, dealing with sustainability, I referred to the concept of cluster communities associated with mining activities. In these
clusters the community would undertake many functions to establish an infrastructure to provide employment within the cluster itself. This involved food from agriculture, schooling, secondary artisan general skills training and provision of the services expected in the more affluent communities. The scope is too wide to describe in detail in this Comment. I suggested a special colloquium be convened to explore the concepts more thoroughly. Some unusual proposed agenda items might be of interest.
➤ Financed association with colleges, universities and consultants for development programmes
➤ Artisan training in agriculture water treatment
➤ Engineering services in hydraulic mining
➤ Services and training in leather, fibres weaving and crafts
➤ Language courses to support tourism activities
➤ Medical clinic services
➤ Analytical services including geology and microbiology
➤ Project work for visiting scientists and for tourists
➤ Sport facilities and coaching schools.

Many of these items were gleaned from the sustainability reports of the mining companies. This list could be extended considerably to feature other industries,
tourist localities and urban areas.

I am sure this could be a way forward, and the mining industry might well act as a catalyst to get a nationwide crusade started. It would have to be a combined effort of the Government and the mining industry and, one hopes, might rapidly expand to other major industries such as Sasol, for example. It would demand much R&D work in a host of topics. But the success would not have to wait for the outcome of rocket science at some far distant future date.

Financing is a topic in its own right and it is envisaged to be on a venture capital basis, which of course demands exceptional strategic planning and evaluation. But these
methods are at a high level in the mining Industry. The success mission would be to convert a second world country with a high proportion of impoverished people to a first world economy with a standard of living enjoyed by all. It is a mammoth crusade and long term. The crucial success factor is the extent that the privileged public and those in business and government make available their expertise and participate in the cluster communities. The benefits to all in crime reduction and moving forward in our own pride and world respect are enormous.

To start after 2010 would fill the gap left in the aftermath of a successful Soccer World Cup. What would be a better time to attract international investors?

Would it be crazy to suggest that the moguls be invited to underwrite the launch of a crusade for uplifting the minions?