Dineo Faku

MINERAL Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi took the opportunity in his first address to the Mining Lekgotla to call for a revision of legislation to resolve labour disputes following the five-month strike in the platinum sector that almost brought the economy to its knees.

Ramatlhodi also said mining had to benefit all South Africans and the rights of community shareholders had to be protected when companies sold assets.

“We need legislation for the best and the worst of times. If you don’t do this [allow for dispute resolution] in the worst of times the deadlock will never be broken,” he said during a panel discussion at the event.

The lekgotla was established three years ago by the Chamber of Mines, Department of Mineral Resources and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as a think tank to debate challenges in the sector and find solutions.

“In the disposal of assets, we need to know what the rights of community shareholders are. Right now I have a lot of cases on my desk of communities that have challenges,” he said.

The legkotla is being held while the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill awaits President Jacob Zuma’s signature to be passed into law after both houses of Parliament approved it.

“Having spent time listening to stakeholders, and taking cognisance of the fact that under our constitution, a bill before the president can only be referred back to Parliament if it cannot muster a constitutional test, I am ready for any eventually,” Ramatlhodi said.

“In the event the bill is assented to in its current form, I commit to a rigorous and transparent engagement with stakeholders on draft regulations.”

Ramatlhodi said there was a great deal of uncertainty. “We need to find a resolution and I am very sympathetic,” he said.

Saturday marks the second anniversary of the killing of 34 people during a police shoot out at Wonderkop near Lonmin’s Marikana mine after 10 others were killed in labour unrest in the area in August 2012.

Ramatlhodi acknowledged that the sector had to do more to ensure lives improved and said Marikana should not be repeated.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said on the sidelines of the event: “We want true empowerment of communities. We don’t want them as cheque collectors, or Aurora type of empowerment. We want black people in the mining industry who are experienced and can run mines safely.”

Indications were that there was room for improvement for mining houses to meet the deadline to comply with the mining charter.

The department expects 26 percent of the mining sector to be in black hands by year-end and will look into remedies based on the charter if mining companies did not comply. “We don’t just wake up and revoke licences. The mine operators have rights,” Ramatlhodi said. Ramatlhodi told delegates that the sector needed to redouble its efforts to transform and ensure mining communities benefited from the minerals on their communal land.

“While the review process on the implementation of the mining charter is still under way, initial results suggest that whatever compliance we may have achieved, much more work still needs to be done.”