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Ramaphosa: Govt, mines must go back to the drawing board

Jun 20 2017 19:39
Amogelang Mbatha and Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg News

Johannesburg - South Africa should negotiate with mining companies over controversial new regulations that are supposed to help spread the country’s mineral wealth more broadly but have drawn outrage from the industry, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

“Both parties must go back to the drawing board and they must sit down and talk about their shared interest, their shared future and how best they can reach a measure of consensus” about the new Mining Charter, Ramaphosa said on Tuesday at an event in Johannesburg.

“In the end, the mining industry needs investors but at the same time it needs to transform.”

The charter was released on June 15 by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and immediately criticised by the industry, which says it wasn’t consulted and that the changes, including a higher minimum level for black ownership, will hurt investment.

Public disagreement about the new rules further highlights rifts in the ruling African National Congress, of which Ramaphosa is also deputy president, ahead of a December leadership conference to elect a successor to President Jacob Zuma.

The ANC last week expressed concerns about the charter’s effects on employment and said it would seek an urgent meeting with Zwane. The Chamber of Mines, which represents mining companies and has promised to fight the new charter in court, met with ANC officials on Tuesday.

The government should reach an agreement with mining companies on the way forward for the charter, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said in a Bloomberg Television interview. An accord is preferable to a court battle, which could become drawn out and damage economic growth, he said.

Ayanda Shezi, a spokesperson for Zwane’s department, said she needed more details about Ramaphosa’s statements before she could comment.

The top six members of the ANC, which include Ramaphosa, agreed with the charter, Zwane said in an interview with the SABC posted on Twitter.

Ramaphosa, who is seen as one of the top contenders for the leadership of the party, co-founded South Africa’s influential National Union of Mineworkers before helping to negotiate a peaceful end to apartheid.

He was one of the high-profile beneficiaries of early black economic empowerment deals but disposed of some of his business interests after being chosen as deputy leader of the ANC.

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