The finance minister unveiled a 14-point plan on Thursday to restore confidence in the economy that, among other things, called for two erstwhile warring parties – the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and Chamber of Mines – to come back to the negotiating table and try to resolve the impasse over the Mining Charter.
During his presentation, the minister underscored the importance of the mining industry to growth and employment. “Mining was an important contributor to economic growth in the first quarter of the year [something that has been sustained into May based on data published on Thursday]. We want the parties to find one another and I hope that they continue to engage,” he told the gathered media.
Gigaba identified growth and staving off the credit downgrade as the joint top priorities of government’s management of the economy. He revealed to Moneyweb after the press conference that he had met with the Chamber of Mines earlier this week to try and understand what was going on. “I met with the chamber on Tuesday and made the commitment that we were going to try to assist in facilitating discussions.” Asked if there was any chance implementation of the charter would be suspended while this process unfolded, he simply replied, “we are just going to try. It would be difficult to make any commitment. So let’s just try”.
Chamber of Mines chief executive Roger Baxter, confirmed that it was a cordial and “well-intentioned” meeting between the minister and the chamber, but indicated the engagement was probably too late. “The Mining Charter – which is not our Mining Charter – because it was not negotiated with us, has already been gazetted. We think that this charter will benefit a select few at the expense of the entire country, and we have initiated three separate legal proceedings to suspend and review it, as well as to seek a declaratory order to deal with the continuing consequences of ownership [otherwise referred to as the issue of ‘once empowered, always empowered’,” said Baxter.
This comes against the backdrop of the mines minister flying to Chile to take part in the Latin American Mining Conference while earlier in the year failing to attend a conference of the same subject in Johannesburg.
One of the other points Gigaba raised as a priority in respect of mining, was the finalisation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Amendment Bill. “I am glad he did, but we have been asking and waiting for that for five years now,” said Baxter.
National Treasury and Gigaba are right at the apex of the factions competing for control of the ANC. While the finance minister desperately wants to revive growth, his hands will be tied by the internal ructions within the ANC.