JOHANNESBURG – The Department of Mineral Resources has axed two senior officials and laid charges of fraud against seven others as part of its bid to root out alleged corruption left behind by former minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe yesterday told journalists on the sidelines of the two-day Joburg Indaba in Sandton – a talk shop for key industry players including the government and banks, labour and mining houses – that he had embarked on a clean-out exercise to bring back credibility to the department.
“I have discovered things I expected to see and some surprises since I took office seven months ago,” Mantashe said. “Actually, there are seven people who are in court for corruption; some are from the Department of Mineral Resources and others in collaboration with officials. Two have been fired.”
Under Zwane, the industry became central to the state capture project with claims that he personally facilitated the sale of Glencore's assets to the Gupta family and arranged favourable terms of payments on other transactions.
Mantashe has assumed a strong stance against corruption. He closed the regional office in Mpumalanga last month after claims of corruption and complaints relating to backlogs in the issuing of licences. Mantashe suspended an official from Mpumalanga for allegedly misusing Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act.
He also put the Limpopo office on ice for two months after staff were threatened and a bullet sent to the regional manager in an envelope.
The closure of the regional offices comes amid pressure from mining rights applicants for the government to address allegations of corruption and fraud.
Minerals and Petroleum Development Act
Last month, Mantashe called for the scrapping of the Minerals and Petroleum Development Act (MPRDA) amendment bill.
“We're leaving MPRDA for the moment to work on a legislative framework for petrol and gas. We believe it's the right route to take,” he said.
Mantashe, who gazetted the new mining charter last week, said the charter had been a product of extensive engagement.
“We can live with it (the charter). Everybody is happy and unhappy, but we can live with it,” adding that the charter had made provision for workers and communities.
“It is the worker who converts the investment into wealth. They must be respected,” he said.
“You (mining companies) must accept that they must co-exist with communities peacefully.”
The revised charter requires that new licence holders have 30 percent black ownership.
The Chamber of Mines, now known as the Minerals Council South Africa, said yesterday that its snubbing of Zwane at last year's indaba was justified.
Chief executive Roger Baxter said the decision was difficult, but necessary.
Baxter said South Africa's mining investment could almost double in four years if it returned to the top quartile of the most attractive mining investment destinations.
“Along with policy certainty, the development of a competitive strategy for mining is crucial to encourage investment in the industry,” Baxter said.