🔒 Mantashe confirms business friendly face of new Ramaphosa Era

This is the Rational Perspective. I’m Alec Hogg and in this edition, Ramaphosa’s Mining Minister gets business-friendly. Ahead of South Africa’s May 8th General Election, President Cyril Ramaphosa put a lot of emphasis on following a business-friendly agenda that would get the country working again and to do so quickly. True to his word; over the weekend, Ramaphosa called together his cabinet for the first Lekgotla of the new administration, just days after appointing them. The reappointed Mining Minister who had the Energy portfolio added to his responsibilities now, is 63-year old Gwede Mantashe. Like Ramaphosa, he is a former Secretary-General of the National Union of Mineworkers. This morning, Mantashe became the first cabinet minister to take a public platform.

This morning, I went along to the opening of the Junior Mining Indaba at Johannesburg’s Country Club in Auckland Park joining a packed room of miners who were mostly grateful to have an industry veteran fighting their corner in cabinet debates. Mantashe’s address confirms that a breath of fresh air is blowing through relationships between government and business. Here are some of the highlights. – Alec Hogg

___STEADY_PAYWALL___

I think it is a sector, described by a man that I respect most, called David Allen. He described it as ‘almost everyone I encountered these days, feels he or she has too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done’. It captures, as well, the call by President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa to renew our efforts to grow South Africa together. Now, growing South Africa together is an admission on our part – I must explain this to you – that the government on its own, cannot do anything. You, on your own, cannot do much. Therefore, if we want to make a difference, we must work together. Whether you irritate me or not, I have no license to walk away from you. If I don’t like what you are doing, I can’t walk away from you. The same applies to you. If we walk away from each other, nothing is going to happen.

If we are patient with one another and extend our hands to reach out to each other, we’ll do much better for the country. Mining is a tradeable sector. It’s one sector where you trade and our view is that it should continue to strive for bigger contribution to the GDP. One thing that I always discuss in the department (they are getting tired of me) is that I say, “It is not about what you do every day. You go to work. You do this. You do that.” That’s not a manager. That’s a blank tool of measurement. The measurement of the sector that includes the department is its contribution to the GDP whether it is contribution to the economic growth or contribution to job creation. If we are failing those tests, we can describe ourselves in many words but they will be empty words.

Mining has always been a lead sector. You know, I’m from the Trade daily Lekgotla of the ANC. Now, in that Lekgotla; one of the things I discovered last year was that there was hardly a mention of mining. I can say that unashamedly. In that Lekgotla, nobody talked about mining. Mining is a problem. That’s it. At least, this time, it was mentioned regularly but it still lagged behind agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing. It was mentioned but it was covered with mineral beneficiation. When we decoded that, we said at least we are at the entry point of contesting the space as a sector that needs the attention of the state. So, it’s up to all of us to contest that space by being there. When we drafted the charter, the one volatile thing that happened there is that a dialogue was started.

We began to talk to one another as partners in the sector that dialogue was used and implemented in the mining sector, involving all stakeholders in the sector and I argue that it is the old built mining companies that are still suspect of the charter. The first mining company that has implemented the post-mining charter 3 provisions where we had the first 5% given to committees and workers, is in this room. Now, that told me already that the junior miners are going to make things happen if we talk to them and we talk among ourselves. If we don’t, we’ll want everything to go one way and collapse everything else but the pains of engaging ourselves in building a country means that all of us must make certain compromises and sacrifices.

Therefore, when we drafted that, we were rewarded by the Fraser Institute by jumping 25 steps in recognition of policy and regulatory certainty. We jumped from 81 to 56. It’s not as we did that. It is the Fraser Institute – the national body. With regard to investment attractiveness, we jumped 5 steps. Then the mineral council took the ] charter to court, I would imagine that in the next assessment, we’ll retreat a few steps and my description of the mineral council… I must say that in the presence of their members. When people asked me what I think about this, I said, “It’s because mining in South Africa cannot handle stability. They hate stability. They want instability. They trade better when there’s a crisis.”

That was my reaction because dealt with that charter, we passed it together, we were awarded by the national bodies, at it is as we say, “No. We’re still not happy with this, etc.” There is no issue where you’re bargaining where you’ll get everything you want and the other partners will not get anything. It doesn’t work that way. Otherwise, we could as well draught not a mining charter, but a chamber charter. Without a chamber charter, we just go to the Americans and say, “What do you want?”, they list them, and we make that a charter. I’m quite happy to be here. Thank you very much. I appreciate that I have been invited even before I was appointed. Somebody invited me before I was appointed. I had to say to him, “I’m not appointed yet.” So, let me wish you a successful conference. Open discussion and candid discussions are important. If we talk to one another, we can come up with concrete results. Thank you very much.

After Mantashe’s formal address, the Indaba’s host, mining entrepreneur Bernard Swanepoel picked up with questions for the minister that had been submitted by the audience.

“I’m going to take the top three and you’ll see me when I get to number three, why I disown that question. The first question is, can we make available all South African geological information on the internet where it can be downloaded free from anybody at will?”

We are working on it. How long should we wait? That is the line of questions I get every day. How long should we wait? What do I need? How long should we wait? They’ve been working on geological mapping, which has improved quite a lot but I think we should go into more details and clearer.

“But that speaks to the second point and this truly is where we will empower juniors. We give them data, access, and transparency. Can we make South African exploration freely available and accessible via the internet? This is international best practice. People use South African technology and the rest of Africa follows. When are we going to have a transparent system that works well, Minister?”

The reason that I’m referring you to the Springbok Flats and the Molteno Coal Fields is an indication to you that we are beginning to change the way we do things.

“So, please don’t stop knocking on the door.”

And be prepared to pay for it.

“I thought that was my taxes, but what do I know?” The third question I disown, but there’s a name on it. It comes from somebody. Do you want to comment on this optimum process? Are you involved? I don’t know. The question asks, “Are you still remaining involved and are you going to ensure that it ends up in responsible hands?”

Let me put a disclaimer on this one. You see, Optimum: once it is given to business rescue practitioners, we are in agreement (and I’m sitting with a lot of advocates there), which I don’t know why this DMR is full of advocates with no mining engineers. I still don’t understand. When I came there, I said, “It seems as if we are positioning the department for litigation instead of selling” and they didn’t take kindly to this comment. While it is with the business rescue practitioners, you ask questions. You interfere, but you are careful not to get into that process because it’s not a departmental process. We are worried about the time it has taken. We’re worried about the changes that happen every time. We have the feeling that the easiest way to deal with Optimum/Koornfontein is to put it to an auction. Let people buy it and run it. They say that we’re in that process now and we’re hoping it won’t take too long.

Now that you’ve heard the overview, be sure to pick up two more focused clips. One on Gwede’s guidance for miners about where undiscovered mineral riches lie in South Africa. The other, on the way the Ramaphosa administration will be approaching Eskom, coal, and energy security. That was Gwede Mantashe who this morning, became the first member of the new Ramaphosa cabinet to take a public podium. This has been The Rational Perspective. Until the next time, cheerio.