At a single stroke yesterday, Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe destroyed all the work that has been done to try and attract foreign investment into mining.
Ending off the debate on his Department’s budget in Parliament, he threatened to remove mining rights from Sibanye-Stillwater because it has not settled a 10 week strike on its gold mines. He said he would do this by use of Section 47 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. It would be a huge stretch of doubtful legality to use this section to intervene in a strike and arbitrarily remove rights. To do so would be so send a signal that the South African government does not subscribe to the rule of law and any investor faces having their property seized at any time. The predictable result would be that investment in South African mining, already in crisis, would dry up even further.
It would be wrong to think Mantashe is an outlier on this in the ANC. ANC members in Parliament are generally even less supportive of investment-friendly measures than the Minister. They are certainly on the side of the strikers, who are in the tenth week of a strike because of executive bonuses. The company has offered an increase of almost 10% in the first year of settlement. The union wants more because it says executive bonuses show the company has money. This is a labour dispute and should be settled within the confines of South Africa’s already labour-friendly legislation. Intervention of the sort proposed by Mantashe would set a precedent that could be shattering for the industry.
Mantashe’s comments highlight what should be an obvious truth: The ANC does not understand mining, or any business, and is not capable of running a modern economy.