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In the real world, when an operation is especially challenging, those charged with appointing its leadership search far and wide for a person who is most experienced and best qualified. Judging by its recent actions, those rules don’t apply to the Zuma Administration. South African mining is in deep trouble with retrenchments surging as commodity prices plunge and investment falls to a trickle. But until last week, in 60 year old Advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi the national cabinet possessed a man who had worked hard at learning about the sector and was coming to grips with a prickly portfolio. Then someone somewhere decided he needed replacing. So enter left Mosebenzi Zwane, a young MEC in the Free State provincial government who shares his President’s penchant for leopard skins. To date Zwane’s only national exposure is an association with the ambitious Gupta family, close confidants of President Jacob Zuma. The Times newspaper reminded us last week that Zwane played a role in the “Gupta International” scandal when a chartered plane carrying guests from India to a family wedding at Sun City were spirited through the SA Air Force base at Waterkloof. It was also Zwane’s Department, the newspaper says, which introduced a R570m Gupta-related dairy project that went sour into the Free State province. In an editorial last year I wondered what it was that gives the Guptas such influence over the incumbent in South Africa’s highest political office. That bemusement is amplified through this bewildering appointment which, as the City Press article below points out, came as a shock even to ANC party insiders. Among the Gupta mining interests is JSE-listed Oakbay, a uranium miner whose thinly traded stock translates into a deemed market cap of R24bn. (corrected – Oakbay’s mine is a resuscitation of , the failed Afrikander Lease which became the failed Uranium One and is in Klerksdorp in the North West Province, not Free State). – Alec Hogg
by Andisiwe Makinana and Setumo Stone of City Press