South Africa’s ANC-controlled parliament Wednesday approved changes to oil and gas laws that will give the state free ownership of stakes in new energy projects, despite fierce opposition protests.
Under populist pressure less than two months before general elections, the ruling African National Congress pushed through changes in legislation that will give the state 20 percent ownership in ventures and the right to buy an additional stake.
Mining Minister Susan Shabangu branded parliamentarians who rejected the amendments as “stuck in the past”, after the National Assembly passed the bill by 226 votes to 66.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance said the measures would threaten new investment as the country tries to break into the oil and gas sector.
“We have before us a bill that even in the most benign interpretation is going to severely damage our mining and energy industry,” said the DA party’s James Lorimer.
“It can simply be described as a charter for crony enrichment, that will cost us investment and will cost us jobs,” he said.
The opposition party said earlier the changed laws would allow the state to make companies sell remaining shares in a project at a forced price.
Two decades into democracy, Africa’s largest economy is one of the most unequal in the world and the ANC is under severe pressure to spread the country’s wealth among the poor.
New left-leaning parties like that of firebrand politician Julius Malema calling for the nationalisation of mines and forced expropriation of white-owned farms have gained traction.
The country’s largest worker organisation the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has also withdrawn support for the ANC in the upcoming polls, accusing the party of doing too little for the working class.
The new law changes will next go to the upper house of parliament for debate.