File Photo: Mxolisi Mgojo, Chamber of Mines president, speaking during a media briefing in response to the gazetted Reviewed Mining Charter.

JOHANNESBURG - Chamber of Mines president Mxolisi Mgojo this week launched a blistering attack on Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, accusing him of being a ‘tsotsi’  that was treating the industry as a ‘punching bag’ as the rift  between the industry and the department widened.

In an exclusive interview with Business Report, Mgojo joined in the chorus of people who questioned Zwane’s integrity and his ability to take the industry forward.
Mgojo said Zwane was shrouded in unanswered questions on his role in helping the controversial Gupta family acquire the Optimum Coal Mine. 

“When you have a tsotsi who goes to Dubai and then introduces an agency to administered by himself in which the industry will contribute 1 percent of its turnover, you have to worry,” Mgojo said.

“The guy thinks he can bulldoze us (chamber) and that we are a punching bag. We needed to punch back and staying away from the gala dinner was a punch back for the chamber.” 

Mgojo’s unprecedented attack on Zwane comes in a week of drama that saw chamber snubbed Zwane by missing the gala dinner at the Joburg Indaba on Tuesday.
In his keynote address Zwane extended an olive branch to the chamber, charging that his door remained open for negotiating a controversial mining charter.

The chamber rejected the offer and said it was already involved in a consultation with various stakeholders to draft an alternative charter. 

Defending the decision to miss the dinner, chamber chief executive Roger Baxter, told journalists on the sidelines of the indaba on Wednesday that the chamber was focused on legal remedies because it was the only currently available course of action in which it had confidence.

"For us to have attended last night’s event would have forced us to engage with the Minister on specific regulatory issues in circumstances that are simply not conducive to any constructive engagement at this stage, other than through the courts. The last time the Chamber shared a platform with the Minister – in Perth, Australia – the outcome was not at all constructive,” Baxter said.

He said that Zwane had a very questionable history having come in as minister seemingly with the primary task of strong-arming Glencore a legitimate rights holder of Optimum Coal, and conspiring with then Eskom leadership to apparently force the sale of the mine to the Guptas that had robbed the country of public funds. 

Mgojo also told the indaba that the chamber was working behind the scenes to develop the new in consultation with unions and past mining leaders including former Exxaro Resources chief executive, Sipho Nkosi and former AngloGold Ashanti chief executive Bobby Godsell, who all helped in developing previous versions of the charter.
Mgojo, who is also chief executive at Exxaro Resources, said despite the impasse, he hoped that sanity would prevail adding that chamber and Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) were married.

“What we have between the industry, the government, the ministry, not the minister is a marriage. We need to be careful that there are no egos involved. For as long as there is mining you cannot do it outside the DMR. The DMR’s existence is as a result of mining. We are married to the DMR,” he said. The department was not immediately available for comment.