JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) - New South African Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has received a resounding welcome from the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) and mining luminaries.
In its welcoming release, the chamber described Mantashe, 62, as a man of integrity and dignity.
"He is a person with whom our industry has long held a constructive and respectful relationship," it said of the current national chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) and a former chairperson of the South African Communist Party.
BLSA remarked on Mantashe's intimate knowledge of the mining sector and his astute negotiation skills - "two attributes that are critical to resolving the current impasse around the formulation of the Mining Charter", said BLSA CEO Bonang Mohale.
In also saluting Mantashe's appointment, Herbert Smith Freehills co-chair and partner Peter Leon urged Mantashe to make policy certainty his key and urgent priority.
However, Mantashe himself declined to comment when contacted by Mining Weekly Online.
The chamber labelled as "understandable" President Cyril Ramaphosa's delay in downsizing the Cabinet, while looking forward to the President's further announcements on a more streamlined and efficient Cabinet to match the growth and transformation strategy of government, but within the constraints of what the economy and fiscus can afford.
It also gave a good reception to the appointments of Nhlanhla Nene as Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Public Enterprises and Jeff Radebe as Minister of Energy.
It declared the mining industry ready and willing to play its part in building the sector and the economy while recommitting itself to further transformational progress.
"We recognise that much work lies ahead and we are looking forward to working with the newly appointed leadership and all industry stakeholders to ensure that our industry and the people that depend on it have a better future," the chamber added.
Leon drew attention to the Fraser Institute last Friday releasing the results of its annual survey of mining companies. In the Policy Perception Index (PPI) of the document, South Africa's ranking had declined by more than 14% since the introduction of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Amendment Bill in 2013, and almost 5% following the publication of Mining Charter III. As a consequence, South Africa now ranks eighty-first out of 91 mining jurisdictions globally, with a score of 42%, placing it in the third lowest position in Africa, together with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (87/91 with a score of 35%) and Zimbabwe (89/91 with a score of 29%).
Mining jurisdictions with stable and predictable mineral regulatory regimes, including African mining jurisdictions such as Botswana with a PPI score of 82% and a ranking of 21/91; Namibia with a score of 71% and a ranking of 39/91 and Mali with a PPI score of 66% and a ranking of 46/91 continue to be well ahead of South Africa.
"If South Africa wishes to move out of the bottom league of African mining countries, it will have to re-set the direction of its mineral regulatory regime," Leon said in his release to Mining Weekly Online.
"While President Ramaphosa's recent intervention in the Mining Charter III litigation is an important first step in addressing the country's endemic regulatory issues, South Africa will have to do a lot more to catch up with its African peers.
"Re-formulating the Mining Charter in consultation with labour, business and communities and withdrawing the MPRDA Amendment Bill should be priority items in Minister Mantashe's inbox," said Leon.
Born on June 21, 1955, in the village of Lower Cala in the then Transkei and now the Eastern Cape, Mantashe managed the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) until 2006, when he was succeeded by Frans Baleni.
He studied at the University of South Africa in 1997, completed a BCom Honours degree in 2002 and a Master's from University of the Witwatersrand in 2008.
Wikipedia records that Mantashe began his mining experience at Anglo American's Western Deep Levels mine in 1975 as a recreation officer and, in the same year, moved to Anglovaal Prieska Copper Mines in the Northern Cape, where he was welfare officer until 1982.
Prieska Copper Mines and large adjoining areas are currently being brought back to life by the Sydney- and Johannesburg-listed Orion Minerals, which is refurbing the old mine into a modern new mine and undertaking widespread exploration using modern technology.
In 1982, Mantashe moved to Matla Colliery where he became NUM's Witbank branch chairperson, a position he held until 1984. He was elected NUM regional secretary a year later and national organiser from 1988 to 1993. He was also NUM's regional coordinator between 1993 and 1994.
Following a marathon meeting of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress held behind closed doors on 19 and 20 September 2008, Mantashe announced the recall of then President Thabo Mbeki.
The chamber stated that as union leader, Mantashe had proved to be an extremely tough negotiator, which had been demonstrated both during his time as general secretary of the NUM and in his subsequent political positions as secretary general of the ruling ANC.
"We look forward to the many engagements with him that doubtless lie ahead," said the chamber in putting behind it the torrid time it had suffered under the unilateral style of errant former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
In noting the new Cabinet appointments made by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday evening, the chamber lauded the "swift and decisive action" taken by the President in a number of critical areas, especially in the economic cluster, describing it as a clear demonstration of his commitment to ethical leadership and governance in state institutions.
The appointments also address the structures, effectiveness and governance of state-owned enterprises and recognise the importance of minerals and energy to the South African economy.
The President's continued emphasis on good governance and growing the economy are seen by the chamber as being vital for the country.