MINERALS COUNCIL AGM
Energy Minister Mantashe takes a swing at mining execs who ‘insult the State’
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s thin skin was on full display on Wednesday. In prepared remarks at the AGM of the Minerals Council South Africa, he complained about mining bosses who ‘insult the State’ – a thinly veiled reference to Sibanye-Stillwater boss Neal Froneman.
It seems that Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman has pushed Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s buttons – and not for the first time.
“We have observed a growing temptation to insult the state by strong and powerful mining executives. Such executives have no regard for the industry’s international ratings and its relations with government, which makes it difficult to process industry issues,” Mantashe said in his address on Wednesday at the AGM of the Minerals Council, the main body representing South Africa’s mining sector.
“The industry must further discuss the role of business associations who also find it fashionable to insult the government and the governing party – the ANC – projecting them as speaking for the sector,” he said.
Pointing out the obvious faults of a state and a ruling party that have become bywords for corruption is not the same as “insulting” – a point we will return to shortly.
Mantashe did not name “the powerful mining executives” who got under his paper-thin skin, but Sibanye’s blunt-edged Froneman immediately comes to mind.
Among many examples, in an interview with Business Maverick in March, Froneman said:
“My view is now that we are practically a failed state. It starts with inequality and poverty. This is not a mining issue; this is a national issue. This is a lack of leadership.
“This is a lack of people at the highest levels taking proper action against lawlessness, against crime, and it filters all the way down through the system.”
“Whether it’s a simple thing like implementing an exploration policy, the government can’t do it; it can’t even fix its bloody admin systems to sign off mining licences. It’s a pathetic state of affairs,” Froneman said.
One person’s insults are another person’s facts, and the fact of the matter is that South Africa in many ways does resemble a failing state.
The Minerals Council alluded to this in a more diplomatic kind of way.
“Procurement mafia, self-serving gangs stirring up community unrest, extorting supply and employment contracts from our members or participation in expansion or renewable energy projects. This has the effect of stifling investment and delaying projects to the detriment of the mines, communities and national economy.
“This is an area that we need to see concerted efforts to arrest and convict the perpetrators,” the council’s CEO Roger Baxter said in a statement after the AGM.
Insecurity, lawlessness and Soprano-style shakedowns are facts of life for the South African mining industry. And they point to a failing state, whether the minister likes it or not.
This list could go on, including the DMRE’s dysfunctional Samrad system for mining rights and prospecting application and its ongoing failure – for that’s what it is – to replace it with a functional cadastral system.
Then there’s Eskom’s inability to keep the lights on; the shambolic mess that is Home Affairs; the collapse of public hospitals; roads littered with gaping potholes; wider service delivery failures – there’s that word again – and a host of other state breakdowns.
Is it an insult to point out transparent facts? Or does the minister believe that the South African state under the ANC has a passing grade?
If so, it must be based on a 30% pass requirement. DM/BM