Business Maverick


Sponsor our golf day or else! Extortion has entered silly season

Sponsor our golf day or else! Extortion has entered silly season
Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman in Johannesburg in 2019. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As the general election approaches, Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman says the mining industry’s ‘silly season’ of sponsorship or product harassment, or extortion from chancers, has kicked off.

South Africa’s mining sector has long faced extortion threats from “community forums” and various mafias seeking a slice of its lucrative procurement pie. But as the general election approaches, Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman says the “silly season” has kicked off.

“You have ‘community members’ now getting into silly season and trying to demand the use of their products and even to sponsor golf days,” Froneman told Daily Maverick on 10 April on the sidelines of the PGMs Industry Day conference organised by Resources For Africa.

Froneman declined to name the group that made the demand, but said it was present around the company’s gold operations in the West Wits region. And it has not been lost on chancers that gold’s price is at record levels.

“They see the profitability and the prices, and it being in the silly season they think it’s their right to extort. Because that’s what it is – it’s extortion. By silly season I mean lots of politics leading up to the election.

“They even write letters to the [Department of Mineral Resources and Energy] and they involve the minister, reporting on this company for not playing ball. It’s harassment,” Froneman said.

Forms of harassment

In dealing with crime, Froneman said there had been improvements on other fronts and that the business-government workstream on crime was slowly yielding results. He also noted progress with the workstreams focused on the logistics and power crises.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Froneman: business must be ‘outspoken’ about state failures

“There is still good collaboration. There have been some good results in terms of infrastructure protection and improvements in rail lines and so on. But it’s up and down.

“All the workstreams are progressing. We have seen a reduction in load shedding. I get asked: is that because of the elections? And no, it’s fundamental improvements in supply.”

The Business Against Crime initiative has had its first board meeting and Froneman was nominated to chair it this year.

But he noted the challenge was massive in the face of a fragile socioeconomic environment. “Underlying social issues are getting worse. People are getting poorer, the cost of living is rising, theft is increasing,” Froneman said.

Address poverty to address crime

“Until you address poverty, you are not really going to address crime.”

Of course, those demanding sponsorship for a golf day are not driven by poverty. But such vultures can exploit the poverty of communities to tee up protests that disrupt mining operations.

As the elections loom, expect the demands of silly season to get sillier as the criminals seek a hole-in-one. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Confucious Says says:

    I was born near the JSE and have lived near the JSE for most of my life. I am therefore entitled to a percentage of the shares that are traded there! Give me the shares that I am due, and a golf day, or else!!

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Mr Froneman has said it like it is!
    Racist and humiliating BEE policies have lead to expectations from those with hidden agendas – get rid of BEE practices and maybe we stand a chance of economic survival here.

  • William Kelly says:

    Dopesn’t impress me – from the head vulture who enriched himself at shareholder expense because of his “talent”and “skin in the game”. I didn’t notice Mr Froneman dipping into his own pocket when his talent ran out and his share price cratered when commodity prices softened. I won’t deny his skill, work ethic or pie eating abilities but his rapacious greed and flimsy justification for his plunder don’t enamour me much to anything he has to say about the poor, the down trodden and the dodgey fabric of our society.

    • Pet Bug says:

      O for crying in a bucket. Get hold of the animosity toward someone cleverer.

    • John Smythe says:

      And the relevance of your personal attack on Froneman has exactly what to do with the article? The article is about “silly season”. It’s in the title of the article. It isn’t about Froneman.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    The way they operate all over Sa,infiltrate CPF s,Business forums etc

  • Sandy Shore says:

    This shameful practice concerns small business as well. We used to operate a small business in Plettenberg Bay, and the Councellors (guess the party) would often solicit ‘donations’ for rallies (in which they promoted their party). If you refused or could not afford the ‘donation’, they threatened to make your life a living hell, with the result that you could not continue doing business.

    • Grumpy Old Man says:

      Sandy, the practice is so pervasive, it’s become ‘standard business practice’. Not just politicians – Unions have also got it down to a fine art. Heck, I even recall a particular University trying to strong arm us into contributing towards ‘golf sets’ for their retiring academics.

  • Random Comment says:

    You encounter the same mentality on any street in South Africa on any random day: “GIVE ME!”
    “GIVE ME!!”
    “GIVE ME!!!”

  • Can someone mention who these “members of the public” are that are asking for sponsorships for golf days? You know for public interest and more chances they get sponsors!!

  • What we must hear.
    What we want to hear.
    What we do.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    One of the rare brave businessmen who speaks out. The other mostly cowardly CEOs of banks, insurance companies, manufacturers, retailers, and so on don’t have the balls.

  • Just Me says:

    With the ANC, there is just one season and its called corruption season.

  • Alley Cat says:

    I personally love it when I get a call from political parties seeking donations. I take great delight in asking them why we should support them and then I give them a lecture on how their policies are rubbish and how they are destroying the country. It doesn’t end well and they usually can’t be bothered to hear me out.

  • @ William Kelly, I could not have put it better sir. I am so sick of corporate greed, it is the true pox of our society and the grave hole we find ourselves in.

  • Thug Nificent says:

    Nothing to do with BEE, criminals masquerading as legitimate revolutionaries.

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