President Jacob Zuma was said to have blamed platinum producer Lonmin yesterday for undermining the wage negotiations that led to the spiral of violence in which police shot striking mineworkers last year.
Reported by wire services to have been speaking at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Zuma was quoted as saying that the violence at Lonmin’s Marikana mine last August was caused by the company undermining the collective wage bargaining system.
The reports had not been elaborated on at the time of going to press, but in a speech to the local business community attending the important event and to reporters later, the president was conciliatory.
“We are not making any threat to anyone. We are saying: ‘Let us come together; let us discuss. This affects all of us. It does not affect companies only’,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the WEF in Davos.
This was in contrast to the unscripted tirade by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and latterly ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who took issue with the announcement of a restructuring exercise at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) in which as many as 14 000 jobs could be on the line.
At the same event in Davos, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said he had no immediate plans to raise mining taxes after the ruling party directed the government to ensure the industry contributed an “equitable” amount of revenue.
“There is no question of any taxes at this time,” Gordhan said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “We will keep the matter under review and, when we think it is appropriate, we’ll see how the regime needs to change.”
Gordhan added: “Many countries, including South Africa, are asking the question whether the mining royalties are at the right levels, whether the owners of minerals – which are the people of South Africa – are getting the right levels of return.
Amplats’ decision to idle four Rustenburg shafts might “cost us a bit on the revenue side, probably R4 billion or R5bn, but that’s still open to adjustments,” Gordhan said.
“We must be careful not to take a dispute in one or two mines in the platinum sector and generalise it to mining, because coal is working fairly well, oil is working fairly well, gold is working fairly well.
Also at the WEF, billionaire Patrice Motsepe said his firm, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), was looking at opportunities to buy platinum mines
“Platinum is a key sector for us,” he said. “We’ve been looking for the last few years and there are good opportunities.”
The company was looking at assets on the eastern and western limbs of the Bushveld Complex, the richest source of platinum in the world.
ARM has a joint venture with Amplats at Modikwa.
Warning about government takeovers of mines, Motsepe said: “The track record of nationalisation speaks for itself. It’s been a failure. Private sector partnerships with labour and government have proven themselves worldwide.”
Motsepe is the chairman of both ARM and Harmony Gold Mining, Africa’s third-largest bullion producer.
“The challenge is we have to run our companies in the mining industry in a globally competitive manner,” he said.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reduced its forecast for economic growth in South Africa to 2.8 percent for 2013, lower than projections by the government and central bank.
The estimate was cut from the 3 percent predicted in October, the Washington-based IMF said in an update of its World Economic Outlook yesterday.
The economy would probably expand 4.1 percent in 2014, up from an earlier forecast of 3.8 percent, the IMF added.
Growth in South Africa slowed last year as a series of strikes in the mining industry cut output and a slump in Europe reduced export demand. The government is forecasting growth of 3.6 percent this year, while the central bank expects 2.9 percent. The IMF estimated the economy expanded 2.3 percent last year.