I’ve been writing a lot the last several months about the new South Africa mining charter. And this week, that issue is coming to a head — just as some potentially bigger problems emerge for the industry in this troubled nation.
Reports last week suggested that South Africa’s government has now finalized amendments to the mining charter — policies that have been promised by lawmakers since mid-2016.
The problem is, no one has seen the changes.
South Africa’s Chamber of Mines told Bloomberg this week it hasn’t had any communications from the government on the new charter. In fact, Chamber officials said they haven’t received any notices at all since March — suggesting the government has gone to “stealth mode” in moving controversial measures forward.
Early reports suggest the amended charter will indeed be more onerous for miners. Raising black ownership targets to 30 percent, from a current 26 percent.
Such changes however, are simply speculation at this point — until the charter amendments are officially published in government gazettes. Something officials haven’t given an exact timeline for, simply saying it should happen “within weeks”.
That represents a flash-button issue coming in this critical mining nation. And other news this week suggests the government — and the country — may have even bigger problems.
The issue is growing evidence of massive mining-related corruption in the government of president Jacob Zuma. With private emails surfacing that show Zuma’s mines ministry has been greatly influenced by outside interests.
Local press leaked emails from the powerful South African Gupta family. Showing that Gupta companies were consulted on the appointment of mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane — months before his nomination was made public.
The emails show the Gupta’s questioned Zwane prior to his appointment — suggesting they were “vetting” him for suitability in office. Charges that are all the more worrisome given the group employs President Zuma’s son.
If substantiated, these messages provide strong evidence that South African mining officials have been compromised — and could lead to a complete backlash against the ministry, and its policies. Watch for more developments on potential action against these politicians, for the release of new details on the mining charter, and the ensuing reaction from miners.
Here’s to getting too close.
By Dave Forest
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