Min­ing Char­ter re­flects what ails SA

The lat­est it­er­a­tion of the char­ter in­tends to ex­plic­itly ben­e­fit only a small elite, most likely those al­ready con­nected to pa­tron­age net­works, writes

CityPress - - Voices -

From a min­is­ter picked from ob­scu­rity to do the bid­ding of a pow­er­ful pa­tron­age net­work, to the en­trench­ment of elite cap­ture of the min­eral wealth of the coun­try, the lat­est Min­ing Char­ter flat­ters to de­ceive and, like the story of post-1994 South Africa, leads only to deeper in­equal­i­ties.

On the face of it, the char­ter speaks of in­creased black South African rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the own­er­ship struc­tures of cor­po­rate min­ing, as well as greater eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for black South Africans in the hith­erto white- and for­eign­dom­i­nated value chain of the in­dus­try.

In the af­ter­math of an apartheid sys­tem that vi­ciously ex­cluded the ma­jor­ity of South Africans from the eco­nomic fruits of their labour, such grand rhetoric and pol­icy may have been warmly wel­comed in an at­mos­phere of hope and trust that the world-renowned and revered lead­ers of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment would be able to de­liver a “bet­ter life for all”.

But to­day, 23 years af­ter the first prom­ise of a bet­ter life for all, with the lib­er­a­tion move­ment and its lead­ers hav­ing been ex­posed for char­la­tans and frauds, our faith and hope have been eroded to the point where we can longer ac­cept that elite cap­ture of the coun­try’s wealth rep­re­sents an ad­vance­ment for all.

In­stead, our ex­pe­ri­ence of the past quar­ter cen­tury shows that the lived ex­pe­ri­ences of those di­rectly and in­di­rectly im­pacted by min­ing in this coun­try have been in­creas­ing poverty and food in­se­cu­rity, to­gether with a steady and in­creas­ing ero­sion of our rich en­vi­ron­men­tal her­itage.

One of the ma­jor ob­jec­tions to the char­ter is the lack of con­sul­ta­tion that the min­is­ter and the depart­ment of min­ing re­sources have fa­cil­i­tated. Where con­sul­ta­tions did take place, they were merely tick-box ex­er­cises, with lit­tle to no real en­gage­ment and op­por­tu­nity to in­flu­ence the con­tent.

This lack of broad-based in­put and con­sul­ta­tion is the first real re­flec­tion of the deep-seated sense of su­pe­ri­or­ity that has cor­rupted the very soul of the gov­ern­ing party. The party and its un­ac­count­able de­ployed ap­pa­ratchiks have con­vinced them­selves that they, and only they, have the an­swers to our col­lec­tive prob­lems and that they, and only they, should be the ones to ben­e­fit from it. Con­sult­ing stake­hold­ers and af­fected TALK TO US Do you think the poor will ben­e­fit from the new Min­ing Char­ter? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word MIN­ING and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 par­ties are con­se­quently a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience that can eas­ily be reme­died by tick­ing a box.

The lat­est it­er­a­tion of the Min­ing Char­ter be­lies the fact that it in­tends to ex­plic­itly ben­e­fit only a small elite, most likely those con­nected to pa­tron­age net­works.

The nar­row fo­cus on the 30% share­hold­ing that must be al­lo­cated to en­trepreneurs (14%), em­ployee share own­er­ship schemes (8%) and com­mu­nity share­hold­ing (8%) sug­gests – merely by en­sur­ing that “black per­sons” are part of the share­hold­ing struc­tures – that this would mirac­u­lously trans­form the sec­tor from one that vi­o­lently ex­ploits the earth and its peo­ple, and that has been the central pil­lar of the apartheid state, to a broad-based eco­nomic mir­a­cle.

With the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, we can to­day clearly and cat­e­gor­i­cally make the ar­gu­ment that this fal­la­cious eco­nomic pol­icy has failed spec­tac­u­larly to free the ma­jor­ity of South Africans from the chains of poverty and in­stead has con­trib­uted to en­trench­ing the deep eco­nomic di­vi­sions of the past. It has in­stead pro­duced black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment (BEE) net­works that have not only con­tin­ued the eco­nomic tra­jec­tory that has re­sulted in South Africa ac­quir­ing the highly ig­no­ble honour of be­ing the most un­equal so­ci­ety in the world, it has also shown us how these same BEE in­di­vid­u­als would not hes­i­tate to de­ploy the full might of the state to crush and kill any­one who dares to ask for a liv­ing wage.

What may seem at first like a wel­come broad­en­ing of the BEE pa­tron­age net­works to in­clude com­mu­nity share­hold­ing is soon ex­posed as yet an­other ve­hi­cle to en­rich a few con­nected pa­tron­age clients. The com­mu­nity share­hold­ing, in­stead of be­ing con­trolled by the com­mu­nity through col­lec­tive and demo­cratic pro­cesses, will in­stead be con­trolled by a new ve­hi­cle of pri­vate en­rich­ment called the Min­ing Trans­for­ma­tion and De­vel­op­ment Agency (MTDA).

As with pre­vi­ous such en­ti­ties that pur­port to act in the in­ter­ests of com­mu­ni­ties – such as the D Ac­counts of the Bapo Ba Mo­gale com­mu­nity that, ac­cord­ing to the for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor, saw R617 mil­lion go un­ac­counted for – this new agency has all the hall­marks of al­low­ing pa­tron­age net­works easy ac­cess to ex­ten­sive pub­lic funds.

The MTDA – in true anti-spirit of mean­ing­ful broad-based par­tic­i­pa­tion – will not be open to pub­lic scru­tiny and will only be re­quired to re­port to the min­is­ter. Sur­prise, sur­prise.

The cur­rent char­ter also does not seek to change the struc­ture of so­cial labour plans. These have spec­tac­u­larly failed to de­liver on the de­vel­op­men­tal obli­ga­tions to com­mu­ni­ties. In­stead, the plans main­tain the in­ef­fi­cient sys­tem that sees mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of­ten ab­sorb­ing most of the funds to main­tain lav­ish life­styles. This while com­mu­ni­ties im­pacted by min­ing and for whom the so­cial labour plans are meant to ben­e­fit, con­tinue to sink ever deeper into poverty and food in­se­cu­rity.

In short, the char­ter rep­re­sents the very worst of the South African po­lit­i­cal econ­omy. It of­fers no so­lu­tions to the grow­ing inequal­ity and in­creased poverty gen­er­ated by the cur­rent eco­nom­ics of the sec­tor.

The need for a new so­cial con­tract in the min­ing sec­tor is ur­gent. The post-1994 con­tract was es­sen­tially an elite ar­range­ment in which the gov­ern­ing party was promised that its cadres would be greatly re­warded for their sup­port of the min­eral com­plex. Many ANC lead­ers have in­deed ben­e­fited well from this elite pact. It is now time for the ma­jor­ity to be al­lowed to rene­go­ti­ate that con­tract.

Af­ter 23 years of failed poli­cies and in­creas­ingly au­to­cratic man­age­ment of the sec­tor, and grow­ing inequal­ity, poverty and dis­con­tent, it is time to take a se­ri­ous look at what has worked and what has not. That ex­er­cise must be opened for pub­lic scru­tiny and en­gage­ment. The time for tin­pot despots is over.

Rut­ledge is a man­ager with Ac­tionAid SA

PHOTO: REUTERS / SIPHIWE SIBEKO

BELLY OF THE BEAST A mine shaft near Car­letonville, western Jo­han­nes­burg

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