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Mantashe takes on mining laws

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has moved to settle disagreements about mining legislation and push through the Mining Charter and the Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill within five months. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to have the amendment Bill passed by Parliament by July, and Mantashe has said he wants to finalise the charter within three months. The contentious clauses in the charter and the Bill are part of this week’s introductory meetings between Mantashe, the department and mining stakeholders.

“The black ownership targets, and ‘once empowered always empowered’ principle have been big talking points, but the direction will come from ANC policy. The ANC has agreed and so [Mantashe] must implement,” one of the mining executives with knowledge about the meetings with Mantashe said on condition of anonymity.

The mining companies and government remain at odds over the empowerment clauses in the Act. The proposed amendment to the “once empowered, always empowered” clause, disqualifies black economic empowerment (BEE) status when a black shareholder sells their stake to a white person. 

The charter prescribes a 30% black ownership target and a 1% levy to BEE shareholders before other dividends are paid. The Chamber of Mines applied to have the charter declared unconstitutional in the high court, after it was published by former minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

The ANC resolved to set the 30% target in 2016. The target was welcomed by both the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). But, in one of his first acts as president, Ramaphosa met the Chamber of Mines and convinced its executives to postpone the court challenge on the premise that consultation would start afresh.

“The negotiations over a new charter that lie ahead will be tough for all stakeholder groups. We would hope and expect that he [Mantashe] will approach the talks in a manner designed to optimise both transformation and the sustainability of the industry,” Chamber of Mines spokesperson Charmane Russell said. 

This week Mantashe signalled that he “seems to be willing to move the Mining Charter targets”, the executive said. The chamber has not yet accepted the targets, calling instead for a review of previous shared ownership schemes. 

Although Amcu supports the ownership target, its president, Joseph Mathunjwa, and Mantashe have a soured history.  

The two once served together in the NUM. Mantashe was the general secretary of the union when Mathunjwa staged an unauthorised underground sit-in at the BHP Billiton mines in the Free State in 1998. 

Mantashe’s refusal to recuse himself from Mathunjwa’s disciplinary hearing led to the now Amcu president forming the rival union. Amcu’s formation was the boneof contention between the two unions, which culminated in the 2012 conflict during an unprotected strike at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Rustenburg. Mathunjwa accused Mantashe of siding with the NUM during this strike.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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