Min­ing Char­ter is fool’s gold

CityPress - - Voices & Careers -

We are told that the new and widely re­viled Min­ing Char­ter is now no longer the law of the land – or the “min­eral wealth be­neath the soil”, as an­other char­ter once had it.

At least, not un­til the de­part­ment of min­eral re­sources thinks up a way to de­fend it in court. In Septem­ber. Pos­si­bly.

Why the enor­mous rush to gazette this thing, which even staunch ad­vo­cates of trans­for­ma­tion call crazy? Not crazy be­cause it raises the tar­gets for black own­er­ship, but be­cause large parts of it just don’t make sense. Be­cause no one, in­clud­ing the de­part­ment, seems to have a clue what it seeks to make the in­dus­try do or what it would cost.

There are the­o­ries. Said one min­ing ex­ec­u­tive, whose boss in Lon­don had a mild heart at­tack when the char­ter was re­vealed: “Don’t ex­pect any ra­tio­nal pol­icy around here un­til 2019.”

“Peo­ple want to be seen to be do­ing ‘rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion’, whether it works or not,” said an­other.

What price are we will­ing to pay for grand ges­tures? The tag on this one is the sum to­tal of all the peo­ple’s min­er­als, which now have a com­pletely in­de­ter­mi­nate value un­til the courts are once again forced to gov­ern for us.

Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane said those who op­pose his char­ter are the en­e­mies of trans­for­ma­tion.

He said he had con­sulted widely – with 60-odd stake­hold­ers whose iden­ti­ties are un­known. We know few of these could have been min­ing com­pa­nies. But were none of them lawyers fa­mil­iar with the Com­pa­nies Act or tax law? The con­sen­sus is that the char­ter hope­lessly of­fends both.

Were none of them from the com­mu­ni­ties on whose be­half – ac­cord­ing to the new char­ter – the state will own min­ing shares, with­out ad­dress­ing any of the ac­tual bat­tles rag­ing about hous­ing or the en­vi­ron­ment?

When Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba this week tried to con­vince the world that he had no in­ten­tion of do­ing any­thing rad­i­cal at Trea­sury, the Min­ing Char­ter was the only piece of out­stand­ing “struc­tural re­form” on his list that was checked as “com­plete”. So much for that.

Given the cul­ture of im­punity in the Ja­cob Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion, it is un­likely that Zwane will face any con­se­quences for his reck­less, de­struc­tive and costly ac­tion, which bor­ders on sab­o­tage.

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