Wednesday, November 4, 2009

South african Minister Shabangu tells mining firms to stop fronting

November 4, 2009

By Lucky Biyase

The government would not tolerate the widespread trend by mining companies to rent black faces to buy compliance, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu warned delegates at the Chamber of Mines' 119th annual general meeting yesterday.

"We are digging deeper into your companies and we will be coming to you. Action will be taken," she said. Shabangu would not be drawn on saying what action would be taken.

"We are still consulting with the industry and organised labour. In about a fortnight we will be going to cabinet. Wait and see if it means naming and shaming. It could be," she said.

Shabangu said the current review of the mining charter had revealed that there was a continuous trend to put black people at the front and make them sit there and watch.

"We want (black) people to be operational and take decisions. We want to have mine managers, we want to see geologists and metallurgists, not people who are employed to buy flowers and be kept in boardrooms," she said."There are some people we have spoken to who do not even know the premises of the companies they are directors in."

Shabangu said the chamber should transform itself to shake off its 1889 image, when it disrupted rural families to form a pool of cheap labour.

Young people needed to join the mining industry with the intention of becoming skilled and not with the aim of getting rich quick, Shabangu said.

"We need skilled people who will go underground and manage operations. Without these skills, who will go underground if we all want to sit in the boardroom? We are heading for a boom and we will need skilled people to tap into that boom."

Shabangu asked the chamber to ensure the transfer of skills to the youth to keep continuity in the industry or it would be destroyed when they were gone. She also lambasted companies that did not commit to the social labour plans, preferential procurement and social upliftment programmes.

"We know we are in a financial crisis. But community development and poverty alleviation cannot take a back seat. Profitable mining has been going on for some time now without ploughing back to the communities. Communities should be given a chance to participate and we should not think about our families and friends as beneficiaries," she said.

Chamber president Sipho Nkosi said members were scrupulously committed to be active participants of the review process and they were equally committed to a globally competitive mining industry bent on creating wealth and jobs and alleviating poverty.

"From what the minister said we could pick up some of the things that could help and guide us in some directions," he said.

On skills development Nkosi appealed to the minister and the government to assist the industry with a structure that should respond to its needs.

"As the industry, we will contribute our bit by being led by you," he said.

Shabangu challenged the chamber, asking if it still thought it was relevant and had transformed enough to meet challenges facing not the country but the rest of the world.

"Why do we have industry associations mushrooming if the chamber is there? It must not be colour transformation, but content," she said.

Nkosi said relevance and transformation were subjects of debate in the chamber.