Business Maverick


EXCLUSIVE — Mantashe reigns as the minister of no new mining as DMRE lacks admin capacity

EXCLUSIVE — Mantashe reigns as the minister of no new mining  as DMRE lacks admin capacity
Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe on 28 November 2023 (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

More than 2,500 mining applications received in FY 2023/24, not one finalised. Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s administrative capacity seems to have completely collapsed, and the consequences for investment in South Africa’s mining sector will be dire.

On 8 December, when South Africa was on the verge of its annual Christmas shutdown, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe responded to questions from Christian Themba Msimang, an IFP member of Parliament.

“What (a) total number of applications for mining licences were received in each province for the 2023/24 financial year, (b) number of the applications were successful and (c) number of the successful applications for mining licences were awarded to women and persons living with disabilities?” Msimang asked.

Spoiler alert: No applications were awarded to women or disabled persons. This is not because they were excluded from consideration. It is because not a single application had been processed in the financial year up to that point, according to the minister’s response:

“1. 2,525 mining licence applications were received since the beginning of the 2023/24 financial year.

  1. None of the applications mentioned in (a) above have been finalised.
  2. Please see (b) above.”

Indeed, see (b) above. (You can read the question and reply on the website of the NGO, Parliamentary Monitoring Group).

Three-quarters of the way through the financial year, the department had received 2,525 applications for mining rights and permits, including presumably for exploration rights – “mining licence” is not the correct terminology – and the department was unable to finalise any of them. Not even one out of 2,525.

This shows the utter paralysis in the department and underscores the urgency of getting a functional mining cadastre up and running, a process that has also seemingly gone over a cliff.

It’s also revealing to note that Msimang had asked for a breakdown for each province, but the minister could not provide even that. Perhaps this was because the department could not be bothered, or because it is in such a muddled state that it doesn’t actually know.

The collapse of the administration of our mining regulatory regime seems to be happening behind a wall of deliberate obfuscation and denial.

Daily Maverick emailed a query to the department on 4 January asking for an explanation, but has yet to receive an answer. 

The mounting dysfunction at the department was thrown into sharp relief in February 2021, when it revealed that the backlog for mining permits, mining rights and permit rights had reached an eye-watering 5,326. It has since reported progress.

But if, as at December 2023, none of the 2,525 applications received in the financial year had been finalised, the logjam is clearly growing again.

“What we know is that in February 2021 the department disclosed to Parliament that it had a backlog of 5,326 mining rights, prospecting rights and mining permit applications, renewals and cessions. Two-and-a-half years later we learned that the like-for-like backlog was 4,486. This suggested that the backlog would take 16 years to clear at the then processing rates,” Paul Miller, director of consultancy AmaranthCX, told Daily Maverick.

“We now learn that in the 10 months to December 2023, 2,525 ‘mining licences’ applications were received, with not even one being finalised in the period. Sixteen years now look ambitious.” 


A dump truck transports excavated rock at the Mafube open-cast coal mine, operated by Exxaro Resources and Thungela Resources, in Mpumalanga on 9 September 2022. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Critics – and the minister himself – have long decried the department’s useless Samrad system for processing mining rights applications. Now Samrad – and the department by extension – seem to have completely melted down. This has happened largely under the radar, given the department’s aversion to transparency.

“The collapse of Eskom, Transnet and many municipalities has happened in plain sight. The collapse of the administration of our mining regulatory regime seems to be happening behind a wall of deliberate obfuscation and denial,” Miller noted.

A functioning mining cadastre would shine the light of transparency on this shambolic state of affairs, but after years of promises and delays, the process is stuck in a rut of opacity.

A mining cadastre is an online map portal that displays a country’s mineral wealth in a way that is easily accessible to the public. It also shows the state of play of mining and exploration rights, as well as active mining operations in a country, and provides a platform for companies to apply for exploration, prospecting, mining and related rights.

Which company is going to apply for a prospecting permit in South Africa when the department has been overwhelmed by applications that it has shown it is incapable of processing?

Neighbouring Botswana and Namibia are among several African countries that have a mining cadastre.

Last year, the department finally seemed to get the ball rolling on that front. In August, it said that it had selected the preferred bidder to replace Samrad, and an announcement was expected in October. The process was being audited for final approval by the state IT agency, Sita.

Five months after the preferred bidder was selected and three months after the expected announcement, there is still nary a word on the matter from either the department or Sita.

Since November, Daily Maverick has tried on a number of occasions to get an update from Sita, but none has been forthcoming. It is a radio silence that speaks volumes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa told the African Mining Indaba in February last year that the government was in the process of procuring an “off-the-shelf cadastral system” – in other words, a proven one like Botswana’s. One wonders what he or the minister will tell the ­indaba this year.

This unfolding cadastre disaster and the swelling application backlog are major deterrents to investment in South Africa’s mining sector, especially for exploration. And without exploration, a country’s mining industry has no future.

South Africa’s share of global exploration budgets fell from more than 5% in 2004 to below 1% in 2022, according to S&P Global data. Yet Mantashe said in 2019 that South Africa would reach the 5% threshold again within “three to five years”.

But which company is going to apply for a prospecting permit in South Africa when the department has been overwhelmed by applications that it has shown it is incapable of processing?

Mining may be all about geology, ultimately, but geological timeframes don’t cut it in boardrooms. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mmmmhhh, can you familiarise your self with mining law terminology… cant say no applications were processed instead you need to say no applications were finalised because processed means, acknowledgment, accepted and rejected or sent back for further information…finalised means a decision to grant or refuse.
    Time frames matter as well, technically only applications received by April/May are due to be finalised by December provided they were no objections anything received after that is still in process…..therefore the 10 months you have mentioned in the article is not a true reflection of the status quo.

    • Vincent L says:

      Cant, Kant or Can’t? 😉 If the Magnificent Mantashi and his band of comrades fail to respond to questions or even try to give some semblance of response then maybe Ed could update the story! So, to the best of our knowledge from the article , many applications were made and none have been finalised.

      • Francois Smith says:

        With Gwede, you are allowed to use the “u” too. That said, Gwede is sorting out Eskom. He is clandestinely working on his third six month stint. He said: “I need six months” to sort out Eskom, he just didn’t say 6 of them in a row. Ramanophalus – fire him and Cele and yourself.

        • Jimbo Smith says:

          Does this scandalous failure by Mantashe not align with treason? Single handedly he and his hopeless minions in DMRE have denied SA massive investment potential, jobs and a boost to the economy. Does he care; doubt it@

      • Lynda Tyrer says:

        He and his dept seem very inexperienced in the industry they dont see it as growing the economy and giving jobs to the unemployed, surely they are not all waiting for backhanders ?

      • John Smythe says:

        Semantics. Point is that his department is dysfunctional.
        It’s time for Mantashe to hang up his incompetence and retire.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      0 remains 0.

    • Ashley Stone says:

      I am sure the unemployed would find your comment interesting.

  • William Kelly says:

    It’s simple. Gwede the muppet wants to drag everyone down to his level. That way when it comes out where the cANCer have allocated mining and mineral rights to their buddies everyone will be too ‘not here’ to be bothered about it.
    I know it’s rhetorical but why is he still in his position? And why will we be paying him a fat pension? Muppets don’t need to eat, and they clearly are incapable of thought.

  • Cachunk Cachunk says:

    More like a mining Cadastrophe.

  • Frank Fettig says:

    It is a miracle that this ANC still has supporters cheering it on. Why is that?
    Sheep kissing the wolfs butt…

    • Peter Dexter says:

      Simply because: citizens don’t have to prove their competence to earn the right to vote, and our educational standards are extremely poor and deteriorating. The majority of voters simply don’t know what type of leadership is likely to improve their lives

    • John Smythe says:

      Slightly off topic. But, this is one of my bug bears with the SA education system. It doesn’t teach its learners real life skills such as opening banks accounts, insurance, loans for purchasing houses and cars, as well as critical thinking when it comes to voting time. In other words, how to assess what your government, local municipality, province, etc. done to improve your and your family’s lives. How to decide who you vote for instead of being a sheep herded by the ruling party dog. This is how we end up like this.

    • Richard Blake says:

      ANC supporters are only concerned about getting a streetwise 2 and a grant. Everything else goes over their head.

  • Simon Schaffer says:

    No pay Gwede. No permit.
    Delinquent Minister who has his own self enrichment as objective no. 1. He’ll be happy to see the whole industry go to nothing of his pockets aren’t greased handsomely.
    This in a sector with the ability to employ hundreds of thousands more South Africans.

  • Pet Bug says:

    Good lord…!

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    I understand that news tends to focus on what is wrong as opposed to what is right. But is there even one SOE for which the adjective “dysfunctional” is not applicable? Help me out here. I am so in need of ray of hope, some shining light is this descent into darkness.

    • Andre Grobler says:

      DSI seems to have good people in charge – and whilst the challenges are huge people seem to be held to account, maybe at a governmental pace, but still…

  • Francoise Phillips says:

    This could be a deliberate ANC ploy to ‘gate keep’ mining rights and sell those rights to whoever will take on selected ANC cadres as BEE partners and handsomely stuff ANC pockets. Given its track record the ANC most likely plans to sell these rights and enrich itself at the expense of the country. This is what the ANC does.

    • Lynda Tyrer says:

      Sounds similar to the holding of grid capacity for Eskom, and guess who was involved in that none other than Mantashe, it seems a common thread with him he first looks to see whats on “offer” first before going ahead with anything.

    • Zamfoot 1 1 says:

      You got there before me, I would bet the left one on the belief that over and above utter incompetence by the dept and the minister, your spot on, gate keeping for the politically conected and ANC funds is the straw that broke the camels back. One preys for the smallest of meteorite to rid us of the dinosaur that is Qwede. (that being a pen stroke by our President when he eventually get over his shock)

  • Ravi Pillay says:

    @ Ed/itor: Your headline was very mischievous! For a Monday especially….I screamed with joy…but shortlived…it was ‘reign’ NOT ‘resign’ 😃

  • J vN says:

    Uncle Gweedy would be extremely hard-pressed to mow a lawn successfully. The sole “job” he’d get on pure merits, would be as somebody who digs holes, and even that may be a bridge too far. The ANC is truly “led” by severely substandard individuals.

  • Bruce Surmon says:

    Oh, that was wishful thinking … a quick glance at the heading and I thought I read “EXCLUSIVE: Mantashe resigns as the minister”

  • velwano velile mpikashe says:

    The incapacity of DMRE to process mining applications points to the general govt fiasco in every departmental lever.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t finalise a single application. The level of uselessness that would need to be plumbed for that to be possible seems unlikely even for a group of the glorious liberation movements finest. I think its more likely that it’s been done intentionally to precipitate a crisis along the lines of the electricity one which Mantashe and co have also helped along to enable shady procurement scams.

  • The ANC January 8 celebration on 13 January 2024 went well according to them. It fell short of how it will implement these ideals, especially those related to the Young and Unemployed. It has been observed that the ANC’s ideals cannot be implemented because of a lack of leadership and corruption. I propose that all Cabinet and Parliamentary Officials who served for two or more terms and are above 65 years take a pension so that young blood gets the opportunity to bring in innovation.

  • Jennifer D says:

    There is an understanding in SA that being appointed to a position and receiving a high salary is a right. Actually doing the job is not necessary. I called over 80 numbers in one government department (intent on getting an answer) and one person answered (a little Afrikaans girl who still thinks that if she’s paid she actually needs to go to work). She couldn’t help me and when I asked where everyone was, she said she doesn’t know- they don’t come in every day. I believe that when they do deign to come in, they don’t bother to do their jobs – because they can’t or because they don’t have to? That is the question.

  • Lynda Tyrer says:

    Surely what he is doing could amount to treason, he is deliberately stiffling the economy of this country.

  • Joe Trainor Trainor says:

    I mis-read the title of this story. Thought it said “Mantashe Resigns”. Wouldn’t that be amazing!

  • Henri Staub says:

    Mantashe has been unashamedly at the forefront of the gross mismanagement of the economy since 1994.
    He & all of his communist peers must be sent to scrap heap after the ANC demise in 2024.
    Zuma sold RSA to the Guptas to enrich himself & his family.
    Ramaposa has entrenched corruption at all levels of Government & state enterprises.
    Mantashe is destroying the mining industry brick by brick.
    Nelson Mandela must be turning in his grave.
    Our beloved country does not deserve this fate.
    Our poor are poorer than in 1994 whilst the ANC elite live a life of opulence with unbelievable arrogance. How much longer can this be tolerated?
    George Orwell’s story of Animal Farm is alive & well in RSA.

  • William H says:

    Shame man. These ANC old timers obviously don’t know how to administer complex organisations. It’s a lot more difficult than stealing. Simply put, a lack of grey matter is causing all of this. OK, and thievery.

  • Chris Orr says:

    What a truly appalling situation for a country with a once proud mining industry. Beggars belief. What a shame.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Mantashe should be tried for treason, on two fronts: this disgraceful destruction of the mining industry’s future through his venal refusal to implement relatively cheap and simple cadastre systems, that are available off the shelf – it’s not just relatively well run countries like Botswana and Namibia that have them, almost all mining-focused countries in the region have online cadastres, including Malawi, hardly the centre of global mining! The only other country in Southern Africa (from a 3 minute Google search) that doesn’t have an operational one is – surprise, surprise – Zimbabwe where they’re ‘verifying the data’.

    Second, Mantashe is directly responsible for the current power crisis by blocking the speedy building of new transmission capacity in the 3 Cape provinces, where the bulk of renewable projects sit stranded and unable to feed into the grid. He’s put about 2,000km of new transmission into the latest IRP, when we need around 8,000km in the near term. All to protect his coal buddies in Mpumalanga.

    It’s treason. Pure and simple. Mantashe’s arrogance (and probably corruption) has cost South Africa hundreds of thousands of jobs since he’s been in power at DMRE, tens of billions of dollars in new investment and similar amounts of lost taxes and export revenues. But he’s too important to Cyril to get rid of, so on he goes, strangling the life out of the economy. And where are the useless, venal unions in all of this? Don’t they want more members? Pathetic.

  • Walter Spatula says:

    I misread the title as “Mantashe RESIGNS”. But alas, that would take someone that can recognise his own failure.

  • Ashley Stone says:

    Total ministerial arrogance. Imagine the job creation opportunities lost.

  • Rama Chandra says:

    “Mining may be all about geology, ultimately, but geological timeframes don’t cut it in boardrooms.” – great line. I always tell mining clients to avoid Congo for corruption and South Africa for incompetence.

  • Rama Chandra says:

    I seem to remember Gwede Mantashe was once regarded as competent. Am I misremembering?

  • Geoff Coles says:

    I assume the SACP has too much dirt on Ramaphosa…..otherwise why would SACP luminaries such as Mantashe, Nxesi, Nzimande, Lindiwe Zulu and others still remain as Ministers.

  • Michele Rivarola says:

    Useless minister, useless DG who was appointed specifically to fast track approvals. They are only interested in projects from which their friends and family receive the highest kickbacks i.e oil and gas

  • Bick Nee says:

    Until I read the explanation I thought a “cadastre” was a new S African word for a “cadre disaster”. Very apt in the context and we do seem to have many of them.

  • Louis Potgieter says:

    Just a reminder that a cadastre must be populated by status data. For accuracy the data will have to come from operational files, not from any existing system. The work will require familiarity with DMRE practices. The same staff who are processing applications at present will have to do the file research! See the problem?

  • John Patson says:

    Seem to remember it was a row over prospecting and mining licences which did Kruger in…
    Of course could never happen again with the creation of the peoples’ will,
    The mighty, united ANC!

  • Rae Earl says:

    Ramaphosa, Mantashe, Nzimand, Cele, Mashatile, et al. All suspected and/or found guity of theft and corruption. Good-bye South Africa. Your voters keep on voting these corrupt comrades back into power every 5 years and they gratefully accept your confidence in their ability to plunder and loot the state while stomping young unemployed black youths into the ground.

  • Gabriel Smit says:

    wow, 2500 mining applications, the total, not processed? can’t all be from Jews… or is it our way of economic santions against the latter-day hegemony of neo-colonialist capitalist exploitation of the proletariat?

  • Um, are we paying this rock a salary?

  • Peter Worman says:

    The same Gweebie who said load shedding was a good thing cause it showed how many households had access to electricity, where does the ANC find these people? And our lame president slags off SA citizens who say nothing has improved under the ANC.

  • Nick Griffon says:

    It is very difficult to say who, between Gwede and Pravin, is the most damaging to SA.

  • Gareth Dickens says:

    A former state apparatchick buddy of mine once imparted the following insight;
    that whenever there is sudden inexplicable glitch of government service such as the “shambles” at Home Affairs regarding Visas or the current seemingly self harming “disaster” with mining licences, the most plausible basis is that there is an intelligence operation at play.
    No gain saying there is always great power competition as well as big corporate interest in securing and monopolising access to resource rich countries.
    Foreign intelligence and big corporates flood the visa application system to embede as many of their operatives in a target country under the guise of investor/entrepreneur or some critical skill gimick. Likewise, they create front companies to apply for mining rights for minerals they deem of strategic national interest. Naturaly, SA national security intervines to slow things down whenever they detect or suspect that such manoeuvers are foot Unfortunately, he said, this ends up as news or another episode of disfunctional maladministration which further animates the public. The the relevant government officials play along with whatever dominant narative the media and public conjures up while the security guys try to clean up or mitigate the perceived risk.
    My lesson? national government is extremely tricky business. Corruption! Incompentance! are often the sanctimonious impulses the of the ignorant

    • Vincent L says:

      Ok, I get it. So they shutdown SAA to make it difficult for people with nefarious intent to get into the country! Oh and there’s the Post Office. If you have fewer post offices, then criminals can’t post their drugs as easily.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Absolute garbage from your ‘friend’. Is SA the only country with minerals, skills shortages, a need for electricity, etc etc? Mantashe is useless and treasonous, promoting his own venal agenda and killing hundreds of thousands of jobs. The alleged conspiracy your ‘friend’ alludes to is simply the deluded ramblings of an ANC plant.

  • Jan Vos says:

    “Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s administrative capacity seems to have completely collapsed…”

    So, what else is new? Every single “department” in this godforsaken country has collapsed. And who do we have to thank? We all know the answer to that one…

  • Andre Grobler says:

    You know… when the then President Mbeki threatened all of us environmental workers that he would not let our economy be held to ransom by the environmentalists…

    he was wrong, we all knew it was rubbish eia’s that held unconnected development back… until they started making deals at higher levels… we didn’t really expect that there would come a time when the ANC appointees would be the ones holding the economy to ransom… literally… one can only surmise that the obfuscation serves to nudge the applicants towards assisted project delivery…

    DMR used to fall over its’ feet to approve foot in the door projects that would sidestep the environmental sector…

  • JAJ Stewart says:

    What great reading “Mantashe reSigns as the minister…” would make. Sigh.

  • Flapster Karos says:

    Ah, no worries. Uncle Gwede will sort this backlog in 6 months. If not, a minister of mining applications will be appointed.

  • I think we should try the Zama Zama strategy!

  • G. Strauss says:

    OMG, for a blissful moment there I misread the caption as saying ‘Mantashe resigns as minister…’. What a spoiler.

  • Charles Steyn says:

    Why does this old stupid Ndala just vanish like Ndlamini Zuma just now, 10% Magashule at some stage, Mbalula himself and for that sake the whole ANC socalled “leadership”. I am of opinion that most of Africa needs to be “recollinised”, think Helen Zille said that at one stage and then was crucified for that. But at least there will be order, infrastructure, jobs, security and education. I am not a racist, I hate it, but I hate incompetence covered up to benefit just a few.

  • Johan Buys says:

    You have to wonder what Gwede has on Cyril.

    He must know where the skeletons are buried. Same with Cele and Nzimande. At least Kopdoek retired, that one was another puzzle along with Fkile till he got shuffled back to The Party

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Quiz about state competences:
    What is working well in Sudafrica?
    Absolutely nothing. (Maybe SARS).
    The supervisors are too busy making money elsewhere and making politics.

  • Denise Smit says:

    They were busy with the brilliant energy plan

  • Ian McGill says:

    Every time I visit the DRME offices in Sunnyside I get the distinct impression that I have interrupted a coffee break. It’s full of bright young things with a Technikon diploma and Zero practical experience. Absolutely zero institutional memory as the lighter-skinned folks have seen the way the wind blows and have taken early retirement, only to re-surface as a “consultant” to the people who have replaced them. Of course, the cadastre hasn’t replaced as they are waiting for a “local supplier” to develop a customised SA “solution” They cannot buy off-the-shelf systems due to the fact the suppliers do not hand out “commissions” Or give away 30% to “empowerment partners” to favoured cadres.

  • Paul Caiger says:

    The rot in the ANC was at the core and the most rotten of the apples was Gwede Mantashe , NDZ and Jessie Duarte. They have survived 3 presidents and have done more to destroy SA than any other politicians except JZ himself and his Gupta friends. Duarte is gone and I wonder how hot it is where she is residing now!
    Gwede has always been the work tongue in the Presidents ear.
    NDZ as minister of health destroyed the government doctors and the district surgeons resulting in the current chaos along with her Beetroot and olive oil alcoholic comrade

    As Magna Carta once said in the song Lord of the Ages :- The children of darkness lived in oblivion betraying one another in endless confusion. Lets hope the Lord of the ages riding on Blinky will come and gather in this rotten harvest.

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