Old Mutual’s Covid-19 contributions help sustain South Africa’s mineral treasure chest
When the Covid-19 pandemic reached the North West Province, it posed a threat not only to the health of the people of the province, but also to the nation’s mineral treasure chest. It is in this corner of the country that about 300 mines produce 50% of the world’s uranium, 65% of South Africa’s platinum group metals and 50% of global chrome needs. Also of concern was the impact the virus could have on the tourism industry.
With commodities like chromite, gold, diamonds, fluorspar, vanadium, rhodium, copper, manganese, coal and nickel, limestone, slate and phosphates, as well as stone and granite operations, the province is a natural repository of wealth and prosperity.
It’s therefore not surprising that there was widespread alarm about the fact that a major contributor to the nation’s annual GDP was facing threats to its sustainability and employee base, says Mr Dumasani Banda, chairperson of the Old Mutual’s North West Provincial Management Board (PMB).
“It was essential for us to respond. We could not stand back and watch what would have been an inevitable, slow, steady decline in a major economic sector that employs thousands of our citizens.”
For OId Mutual, which draws many of its customers from the mining and tourism sectors, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic meant escalating corporate involvement through a special budget and providing personal protection equipment (PPE) and essential hygiene supplies.
The budget was used to supply mines, municipal offices, the Department of Health and South African Police Service members performing frontline duties. Cooperation with the Department of Social Development saw Old Mutual also donate food parcels to communities in dire need.
Throughout the identification and formation of Old Mutual’s grassroots responses with the office of the North West’s Premier and other parties, Mr Banda would not let gloom and despondency limit Old Mutual’s response.
“Our strengths as people are not tested in the best of times, but only in trying times. We need courage and resilience, and there is always a need for cooperation. In this spirit, we offered a helping hand to both the public and private sectors,” he says.
The donation of PPE equipment to the Department of Health ensured that Old Mutual was also taking part in the drive to keep the tourism sector functioning.
The tourism sector, a significant employer of people, is as important as mining to the North West Province.
“One of the prime events in the national sporting calendar is the Sun City Golf Challenge, which has been held at the venue for 39 years. Regarded as one of the greatest golf events in the world, it is hosted by Gary Player and attracts many of the world’s leading golfers and thousands of international and local visitors to our province,” Mr Banda says.
“To be held between December 3 and December 6 this year, the tournament boosts the surrounding local economies by providing additional jobs. Tournament suppliers often purchase foodstuffs and other items locally and in Rustenburg.”
“Many sports events, including the Olympics, have been rescheduled or cancelled because of the spread of the Covid-19 virus. We hope that the swift actions of Old Mutual, other private companies and various government entities will help to ensure the events will happen on schedule,” he added.
“We are proud of the role we have played over the years in helping North West Province’s most disadvantaged people. We will continue to support good causes and the active Non- Governmental Organisations where we can. And we will respond whole-heartedly when events like the Covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly hit our communities,” says Mr Banda.