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Mines chamber: We have a problem with the current minister

Feb 06 2018 11:30
Lameez Omarjee

Cape Town – The Chamber of Mines has reiterated calls for multilateral engagements with ethical leaders to find a vision for a transformed mining sector.

Speaking at a briefing at the 2018 African Mining Indaba on Tuesday, chamber president and Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgojo said people discussing the future of the sector must have the “right interests” for the country as this will determine what the next generation will inherit.

“We need ethical leaders, people who stand for what is good and uphold what is good and who are also being transparent on issues,” he said.

The challenge of the Mining Charter will not be resolved through a unilateral decision, he said. When asked if the challenge would be resolved if Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane leaves, Mgojo said: “We need ethical people around the  table, people who have general interests in the industry and what is good for the country. Only then will we have a genuine conversation.”

Mgojo said that it is not up to the chamber to appoint the minister - this responsibility lies with government. “We won’t say (to government) ‘don’t bring your guy’. Or we won’t say ‘we won’t have conversation because we have an issue with you’.

“We don’t choose ministers but we have a problem with the current minister,” he said.

Mgojo said the chamber has been engaging with other ministers too, including the finance minister, labour minister and the department of trade and industry. “It is not just Zwane representing government.” He said that the “silos” need to be removed to achieve a collective outcome.

“We are not saying to the other ministers that we will not have a conversation with Zwane, but we need an environment where all the parties are together.” Mgojo said a bilateral discussion with Zwane won't work. “He can’t be a player and a referee at the same time.

“Our first choice is to have ethical leadership at our table, people who are truly driving the interests of this country,” he said.

Chamber of Mines CEO Roger Baxter also repeated calls he made on Monday for ethical leadership and good governance in the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). “The charter is one of the key components to create a competitive, predictable and stable environment,” he said.

He also echoed Mgojo’s statement on Tuesday that the chamber cannot choose the minister, and that it is up to the government to choose who will represent it.

If the DMR wins the review of the charter, Mgojo said the chamber would challenge it.

Asked if the chamber will lay a criminal complaint against Zwane, Mgojo said it would be dangerous to prejudge him. He said that investigations under way at the state capture inquiry must complete their course.

At a question and answer session with Zwane on Monday, the minister said the DMR’s door is open to engagement, but that this does not necessarily mean it will agree on everything. Zwane explained there will be instances where stakeholders and the department will differ on what the policy should say, but that it is possible to find mechanisms to reach resolutions, Fin24 reported.

Responding to criticism of his leadership, Zwane said that the DMR’s track record of issuing mining rights speaks for itself, and that he had been approached by other miners before and the DMR had intervened to help them with their issues.

"There are a number of issues, whether we agree with a person or not, which need to be resolved," he said. “But there are areas where we will not compromise. These are the safety of workers in mines, the issue of transformation in the sector and attracting investment to South Africa.”

But Baxter argued that the “open door policy” is futile if such engagements are conducted with someone negotiating in “bad faith”. “Engaging with the minister bilaterally is not achieving an outcome that is working for South Africa.”

Engagement with Ramaphosa

Mgojo confirmed that the chamber has written to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the charter, and that they are waiting for him to respond with a date of availability. He also said that Ramaphosa may not be the one to facilitate discussions between multiple stakeholders, but he will have a vision which will set the tone for discussions on the charter.

The chamber has also been engaging with other stakeholders in the interim. These include churches representing communities, the ruling party, opposition parties, banking associations, labour unions, the JSE and different ministries, among others. 

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