JOHANNESBURG - The chamber of Mines yesterday launched a scathing attack on Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, accusing him of lacking integrity and charging that the industry had lost faith in him.
The chamber’s chief executive Roger Baxter said Zwane’s decision to forge ahead with the implementation of the controversial mining charter had put a strain in relationships between the two.
Baxter said the rift had grown to such an extent that the chamber refused to share any platform with Zwane, adding that they believed that only courts would bring normalcy in the industry. He said significant corruption allegations against the Zwane had also not been cleared, adding that Zwane’s reconciliatory tone on the charter was not genuine.
“It is a pity that he (Zwane) opens up his arms for engagement after the horse has bolted,” Baxter said “He has had more than two years in which to negotiate, it is a shame he has not used those opportunities.”
The rebuke came after Zwane’s apparent reach out to the mining industry when he told delegates that his door was always opened for talks on the charter. Baxter said the chamber had lost faith in Zwane.
He said the last time the chamber shared a platform with Zwane was at annual Africa Downunder Conference last month – in Perth, Australia.
“The outcome was not at all constructive,” Baxter said, addiing that the decision to boycott Tuesday’s dinner was not impetuous. “It was not a decision based on personal animosity towards the Minister. It was a carefully considered decision based on the current regulatory and judicial situation,” said Baxter.
The reason for boycotting the dinner was that not only had Zwane unilaterally published a mining charter whose full implementation would destroy and damage the industry; he also recklessly sought to introduce a moratorium on approving new mining rights, he said.
He said the gazetting of the charter came on top of Zwane’s questionable history. “He came in as Minister seemingly with the primary task of strong-arming a legitimate rights holder of a major mining asset, conspiring with then Eskom leadership to apparently force the sale of a mine to a well-known family that has systematically,” he said referring to reports that Zwane had helped the Gupta family’ to acquire Glencore’s Optimum Mine.
“This pattern of behavior makes it impossible for the industry to engage with any confidence with him on the industry’s future,” said Baxter.
ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize said the party was concerned over the growing rift between Zwane and the chamber. Mkhize said the ANC stood ready to facilitate talks between the two.
“This is an issue that we are concerned about. We will do everything we can to resolve this matter. We know some of you feel you need another minister. From where we sit as the ANC, we have offered to help,” said Mkhize.
Baxter said the chamber had raised its concerns with the ANC and met with many of the party’s top six leadership. He said the decision to challenge the charter in court remained as the ideal outcome was its suspension.
Asked if the chamber was avoiding Zwane, Baxter said: “ We are not avoiding Zwane we know that we have a better chance of an outcome in the interest of the industry through the courts than negotiating with Zwane.”
- BUSINESS REPORT