The instability in the South African mining sector can only be resolved with sound, accountable leadership by all parties, a mining expert said on Thursday.

The reaction by various parties, including the government, following the Marikana shooting, was wrong, chief executive of the Siyakhula Sonke Empowerment Corporation, Fred Arendse, told the 2012 Transformation Indaba in Pretoria.

“Leadership means taking responsibility. What we saw after the Marikana tragedy was government blaming Lonmin and vice versa. The reaction of blaming one another was wrong.

“The mining sector is facing enormous challenges at this stage; a lot of things have happened which remind us of the dark days. Remember, what got us out of those dark days is leadership,” he said.

The August 16 shooting of 34 striking miners at Lonmin’s platinum operation at Marikana, North West, had repeatedly taken the spotlight at the two-day conference. Panellists suggested ways to avoid a repeat of the shooting.

Arendse described Marikana as a combination of failures which resulted in an “explosion”.

“We had failures at all levels. There was failure in the community. You need to look at the poverty in the (Marikana) community. The people there do not experience transformation,” said Arendse.

“I know that the President (Jacob Zuma) tried to engage the protesters who stayed on the koppie. When you want to address such gatherings as a leader, you take responsibility boldly. You don’t stand in front of such people and start blaming others.”

Dr Cornel Malan, head of knowledge and research at mining company Xstrata, said the volatility within the mining sector was evidence of insufficient leadership.

“Remember, not all the people caught up at Marikana were mine employees. Some were community members, and this tells us that communities are unhappy. If the communities are unhappy it means the government is failing.

“In my personal capacity, I think Marikana could have happened anywhere else. It’s not a mining thing, it’s not a Marikana thing, it is a South African thing. It’s happening now in a different sector in the farming industry in Western Cape. People are unhappy.”

She said the poverty and unemployment were unacceptable, causing general discontent. The wage protests by Western Cape farmworkers claimed their first fatality on Wednesday. A 27-year-old man died as protesters clashed with police in Wolseley. - Sapa