Keynote Address By Ms Susan Shabangu, MP, Minister of Mineral Resources of South Africa, at the Inaugural Mining Lekgotla: Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand - Delivered on her behalf by Acting Director General of the Department of Mineral Resources, Mr Joel Raphela
5 Jun 2012
Mpho Makwana, Director of this Programme,
The leadership of organised labour led by the newly re-elected President of the NUM, Comrade Senzeni Zokwana,
The leadership of all mining companies represented at this gathering,
The President of the Chamber of Mines, Xolani Mkhwanazi, and CEO Bheki Sibiya,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both a pleasure and a privilege to be among you on this distinguished and significant occasion. May I begin by thanking the mining tripartite structure; organised labour, business and government, for ensuring that the organisation of this watershed gathering is a success. This is, without doubt, the co-operative way ahead for all South Africa as our democracy deepens and as we deal with our new national challenges.
In contrast, take, for instance, the style of government adopted when PW Botha on August 5, 1985, went against domestic and international expectations in delivering his infamous Rubicon speech. He threw cold water on artificially raised hopes about a dramatic change that would lead, then, to a peaceful negotiated transition for all South Africans – both black and white. That had to wait until 1990. Meanwhile the currency was ravaged, states of emergency were declared, surrogate black supporters of apartheid continued to be misused and even honoured - and more blood was shed.
That unilateral Botha style triggered one of the biggest backlashes in history against this country and its policies. Crippling and stepped-up sanctions against Pretoria were the result. We all know how close we as a country were to the precipice of disaster. We were in danger of inheriting a wasteland. It was a matter of rationality deferred.
Yet, ironically, the very changes that ultimately took place giving rise to the South Africa we have today, had some of their roots paradoxically in actions of the self-same PW Botha. He initiated some reforms, for instance abolishing the pass laws in 1986, and it was he who gave the ultimate go-ahead for a secret project that started the many initiatives, formal and informal, that culminated in the release of all political prisoners and our peaceful transition. Those stories are emerging in greater detail now as we look back on our nearly two decades of democracy.
There may be those here who wonder why I raise this matter. I do so because, despite the cliff-hangers in the lead up to 1994, we did this democracy thing ourselves. We did not ask outsiders to solve what were our own political problems. Though we had almost the whole world rooting for our freedom, we did not need international mediators to broker the peace among the warring groups.
We owe it supremely to the foresight of the leadership of my century-old organisation, the ANC, and also, let us be frank, to the now defunct National Party of F W De Klerk – supported in this by the mining industry - who grasped the nettle. In a spirit of collaboration, we all took advantage of that rare historic opportunity to fashion a peaceful settlement. South Africa triumphed amid the widespread skepticism of jeremiahs.
We can learn from these things. As we move on, we should stay true to that spirit of formidable courage and foresight. More specifically, as we gather here today, we should use the democratic space we now enjoy to outline a joint vision of where we want the mining industry to be in the years ahead, building on the promise and techniques of past collaboration.
We should not forget that South Africa owes its industrialisation and economic diversification to the mining sector which is also, with the ANC, able to look back on many years of existence. It was mainly on the back of mining that our country built its network of national railways, ports, power utilities, petrochemical industries, pipelines, etc, as it delved beneath the earth in the search for minerals and metals. That strength is now being deployed in the interests not only of the few, but of the people as a whole, especially the poor, and it promises to create jobs and enhance levels of growth.
So we need to reflect on where we come from and how – despite the obvious ravages and inequalities of apartheid - the mining and minerals industry’s strengths helped create what we have today. It is therefore correct that organised labour, organised business and the government should meet on an equal footing, not just for the sake of meeting, but more clearly to define the road map ahead. As we do this, we draw inspiration from the visionary leadership of this country that led to us finally attending to the fundamental political dilemmas of our time.
We need this dedicated sense of inspiration and visionary leadership to address the many challenges that the industry is facing. This is happening against the backdrop of the post-apartheid mining dispensation which has, in the main, put together the essential pillars outlined in all ANC and government policy documents since 1992 and which culminated in the watershed promulgation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act ("MPRDA").
The current debates in our country centre on what I have constantly referred to as the evil triplets of poverty, inequality and unemployment which continue, like spreading cancer, to challenge us. In an attempt to respond to this we, all of us in the sector, forged our own covenant. Through this we agreed, after long and protracted deliberations, on the state custodianship of our country’s mineral rights and the consequent participation of the racially excluded majority in the minerals and mining industry.
In fact, the state custodianship of mineral resources is a compromise in relation to the state ownership of mineral rights proposals that were contained in ANC policy documents. In doing so we were implementing the constitutional imperatives of transformation and applying them to the mining industry.
In order to operationalise the MPRDA, we correctly agreed on the transformation tool in the form of a Mining Charter (read together with the critically important Social and Labour Plans). We even went further by amending and improving this Charter. I want to submit that the fundamentals that we have built since 1994 have been correct. The building blocks are there.
So it is important that this conference should look at enhancing the implementation of all provisions of the legislation, policy documents and provisions of the mining sector strategy.
I trust that as a way forward we will critically look at these documents and work out clear strategies to address current and emerging challenges and the consequent negative effect they may have on our sector.
We need to draw inspiration from Franz Fanon, who wrote a seminal paragraph in chapter 8 of his book, The Wretched of the Earth, namely that “....each generation, must, out of relative obscurity, rediscover or betray its mission.”
Of course, Fanon may well have been referring to the liberation struggle in Algeria but that observation is as universally correct now as it was then. We need to recognise that history places us in a unique position to be the makers of our and our children’s future. Using the building blocks I have referred to, we undoubtedly have the leadership collective here to work together and fundamentally to change our country for the better. We have no choice but to rediscover our mission, and, in Fanon’s words, not to betray it.
As a sector, through Mining Industry Growth, Development and Employment Task Team (MIGDETT), we identified the need to address challenges that the industry is facing. We recognised a number of binding constraints that are hindering the growth and competitiveness of the industry. These included the shortage of key infrastructure, such as rail, port capacity, water and energy.
These constraints have to some extent contributed to the decline of our share of global exploration expenditure from 5 % in 2004 to one % in 2011.The MIGDETT initiative has placed ‘mining ‘ at the centre of the political economy of the country once again by ensuring focused and sustained political leadership attention to the sector/industry’s needs.
The announcement of a multi-year infrastructural programme by President Zuma in his February 2012 State of the Nation Address was a key breakthrough. Subsequently, state agencies such as Transnet, Eskom and others have made specific project announcements to alleviate the binding constraints on the industry.
Another key constraint has been the shortage of skills - something that has received joint attention from the industry and government. Brick by brick we are getting to the bottom of this issue and we are making progress and clearly we can do more to get the ticking time- bomb of unemployed and unemployable youth off our townships and rural streets.
I am convinced that, as the binding constraints on the operational side of the industry ease over the next year or two, South African mining is destined to regain its competitiveness. We have already seen improvements in respect of the 2011 Fraser Institute mineral competitive index, which ranked South Africa 54 out of 93 countries, a 13 place improvement compared with 2010. This improvement is the product of our unrelenting hard work and the plethora of MIGDETT and government initiatives.
And last but by no means least, I would stress with great emphasis that the beneficiation policy approved by Cabinet, last year will be a milestone in our recovery, contributing to jobs, value-addition and the further industrialisation of our country.
My Department has embarked on a whole scale review of its internal operational processes to strengthen capacity and accelerate the pace of addressing challenges in the industry. This will include reviewing the MPRDA and the Mine Health and Safety Act. Through MIGDETT, we have removed the perceived tension between ‘growth’ and ‘transformation.’ This is a major step in repositioning our mining industry towards competitiveness.
With an eye on evolving global trends, as Government we are aware of the need for environmental sustainability and attending to global warming challenges. We need to continuously work together to address these challenges. We also need to rectify the relationship amongst mining, social and community issues in areas where mining operations take place. The objective should be to create a win-win situation for stakeholders.
Finally, we owe it to future generations to have a mining jurisdiction that is built by our own indigenous effort. No one else should do it for us, as we showed when we created a new political order 18 years ago. It was Nelson Mandela who, at our 1994 debut at the Organisation of African Unity in Tunis, reminded the world of the destruction of Carthage by the Romans in 146 BC – and yet how all of Africa had re-arisen.
He inspired us to grasp the truth that all is possible if we work together. This conference is a good place for new beginnings. So the effort starts with us all, right here, at Gallagher Convention Centre. Let this, then, be a real Rubicon, a real Carthage re-arising!
I wish these collaborative deliberations well.
I thank you.
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Issued by: Department of Mineral Resources
5 Jun 2012
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