Reversing Zwane-inspired faux pas – Court backs ‘once empowered, always empowered’

JOHANNESBURG — One of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s first initiatives was a cabinet reshuffle. And while a lot of the response to this was negative as certain characters were shifted internally and not out, the appointment of key individuals to key portfolios with an economic flavour were vital. He replaced Zuptoids at the Finance, Mineral Resource and Public Enterprise ministries. Free State MP Mosebenzi Zwane was shuffled in as the new Mineral Resources Minister in September 2015, in a classic Jacob Zuma late night soap opera. And the 15 months that Zwane served the portfolio, before Ramaphosa replaced him with Gwede Mantashe, were littered with scandal. From under the radar flights to Switzerland to the mining charter, the portfolio stagnated during his tenure. The big sticking point was the mining charter, which saw the Chamber of Mines and Zwane at loggerheads over ‘once empowered, always empowered’. Zwane felt companies should be required to maintain a minimum ownership level. A court recently ruled in favour of the Chamber of Mines. – Stuart Lowman

Zapiro’s cartoon on former Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane’s controversial Mining Charter. More magic available at

by Liezel Hill

(Bloomberg) – South African mining companies aren’t required to top up black ownership levels if they’ve previously met the minimum requirements, a court ruled Wednesday.

The decision is a victory for the Chamber of Mines, a lobby representing most producers, which sought a declaratory order on the so-called “once empowered, always empowered” principle. It may also have implications for discussions over a new Mining Charter between the industry and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.

The first two mining charters — rules aimed at distributing the wealth and benefits from the industry more widely — do allow companies to count previous sales to black investors to reach the black-ownership requirements, even if those investors later sold their shares to whites or foreigners, the High Court in Pretoria said in a judgment Wednesday, which the chamber posted on its website.

The dispute over “once empowered, always empowered” was revived last year after then-Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane published a third version of the mining charter, furiously criticized by the mining industry, that he said required companies to maintain the minimum ownership level.

Mantashe was appointed in February by new President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has pledged to find a solution to the dispute over last year’s charter.