Junior Indaba: Prepare for war

It seems inevitable that the Chamber and the DMR will face off in court.

AUCKLAND PARK – The Junior Mining Indaba got under way on Wednesday, with frustration at government for the state of the mining industry clearly evident.

The frustration and despair isn’t just felt by those in the industry, but by members of the ANC too, notably Mathews Phosa, who, as a candidate for the ANC leadership, gave a fiery speech on the state of the ruling party and its compromised president. 

Read: Jacob Zuma has raped the country and the interests of the poor. 

Event convenor Bernard Swanepoel didn’t mince his words either. “I can’t believe the mining industry is under attack by the very people who should have its best interests at heart,” he said in a not-too-veiled dig at the role Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane played in strong-arming Glencore to sell the Optimum Coal Mine to the Guptas.

And it’s not as though the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) could defend itself. It couldn’t even bother to send one official to a gathering that attempts to encourage investment in the mining industry – in a country that is now officially in recession. How pathetic!

But this was probably a good thing because Swanepoel’s little bag of tricks at the Indaba included electronic devices that allowed the audience to vote on premeditated questions of his choice regarding the state of the industry. The results would have been highly embarrassing to any official from the DMR that bothered to attend. Questions included: 

  1. Do you think the DMR will note the outcomes of the Junior Indaba? Response: 92.7% – No.
  2. Rank the following countries in terms of the attraction of starting a mining operation: Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Botswana, South Africa. Response: 1. Botswana; 2. DRC 3. South Africa and 4. Tanzania. (Yes, the DRC is considered a more attractive destination than South Africa.)
  3. Do you trust the DMR regarding the Mining Charter? Response: 82.7% – No. 

The last response points to a complete lack of trust in government by the industry. 

Chamber of Mines CEO Roger Baxter tried his best to remain diplomatic in his keynote address. “Having a stable and predictable mining regime is critical.,” he said. “There is quite a lot of tension between the Chamber and the DMR. They decided to go unilaterally on publishing the new mining charter, but these types of charters need the buy-in from stakeholders. We would like fair and equitable treatment from the government.”

Even when Swanepoel pushed him on the issue of whether the Chamber would take the DMR to court should certain points raised by them still have found their way into the document, Baxter toed the company line: “If the outcome is an outcome which is unacceptable to the industry then clearly we will consider our legal options.”

But from what Moneyweb hears on the sidelines, the Chamber and the DMR are already preparing their respective legal teams for the inevitable legal challenge that will follow the gazetting of the charter next week.

Of course, this will just lead to more uncertainty and stagnation as the case makes its way through the courts over the next few years, at a time when the economy can scarcely afford it.

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It is time that the people of SA, including business, challenge government in a more blunt way. It is the government that is chasing away investment, jobs and taxes. Now is the time that the ordinary person in the street understands fully the damage that the government is causing.

When you consider their conduct, behaviour and decisions our government does not want inclusive growth because it wants no growth at all. Presumably so that they can carry doing something they do well, create and spout meaningless slogans such as WMC. I fear the Mugabe mind-set has settled in: We cannot make the economy for Blacks only so if we destroy it no one can get any benefit.

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