Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: The big conversation has begun on how to get the economy back on track post Covid-19.
Creamer: For every action, there is an equal reaction. The action of this Covid has been so huge on top of the problems that we’ve had in our economy pre-Covid, that the biggest of the big in business and the biggest of the big in government, unions, and stakeholders, even international ones, are coming together to try and work out what the economy should look like when we emerge from Covid-19.
It has got to be stronger and it has got to be better and greener. A lot of the information came out of Minerals Council South Africa, which is one of the big organisations along with Business Unity South Africa and Business4SouthAfrica all the other counterparts that are putting their heads together. They are already starting, of course, with the first move we have to make and that is to cut out suit to match our cloth and not spend more money than we have been bringing in fiscally.
Also, we have got to have much better infrastructure, because a lot of the businesses are reliant on government infrastructure and these businesses are as good as the government infrastructure. They are as good as the port, they are as good as the rail, they are as good as Eskom. Moves are now being made to ensure that we also start becoming greener environmentally, because we’re in a very bad spot when it comes to air pollution, not only from Eskom and Sasol, but also from our own vehicles on our roads. We need to do something much better than that. In saying that, it is an opportunity to stimulate the economy if done correctly.
So, the heads have been put together now, to make sure that what people are doing elsewhere, we can also try here for the benefit of the people of South Africa. We are taking full advantage of this crisis.
Kamwendo: A strong call went out this week for South Africa to appoint an independent minerals industry regulator.
Creamer: This call came from Peter Leon from Herbert Smith Freehills South Africa. He is saying that if you do want to attract investment, you have to instil confidence in prospective investors. We still haven’t set up an independent minerals regulator here, although we are looking for more investment in the mining sector.
Leon is saying look next door to Botswana. There is a model for us to follow. Look at Ghana, which has grown so well in the mining sector since it’s had an independent regulator. Even look at Kenya, which is coming through with an independent regulatory authority. You have got to get away from too much administrative discretion and Ministerial discretion. High levels of Ministerial discretion are the enemy of good governance and investors fear it because it is unpredictable.
We can see in South Africa we have also got the most hopeless cadastre. A cadastre, which should be showing you what is available to invest in, you should be able to go onto your computer and look at what opportunities there are in the minerals sector, but ours shouldn’t be called a cadastre, it should be called a catastrophe, because you just can’t get anywhere with it. You have to then request access to information and that is hopelessly time-consuming. We can see that the licencing is just not coming through.
Peter Leon is saying that ten years ago, top ANC recommended the creation an independent regulator for our minerals industry but it was rejected. He says now is the time to review that decision, because now is the time that South Africa needs the stimulate the economy and to grow it.
Kamwendo: Pressure is mounting on South Africa’s biggest air polluters to curb their emissions.
Creamer: Yes, it’s going to be a period, after the lockdown ends, seven days thereafter, that the Department of Environment Affairs will be putting out a list of the 16 of the worst offenders when it comes to emissions and air pollution.
The worst offenders are going to be exposed to the public so that all can see who is really polluting our air, which is a threat to our health. We know that Covid-19 is emphasising the importance of health. If you don’t have national health, you won’t have national wealth, either. They’re trying to make sure that we come out of Covid and look to making the country healthier by minimising air pollution, which has just got out of control, not only at the level of power generation but also at the automotive level.
We’ve got to love our clear skies during the lockdown because of the low volume of traffic on the roads and because to the major drop in the emission from vehicle exhausts. There is such an opportunity for our platinum, which God endowed us with, to actually stop all this, yet we don’t do it. Going forward, we must.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.