Mining Charter is fool’s gold
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.