Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Ben Magara

Ben Magara

Lonmin

EMPLOYEE housing, or the lack of it, has loomed large on Magara’s ‘to-do’ list since he joined Lonmin in 2013. As if he didn’t have plenty of other priorities in tackling a restive workforce and allaying investor concerns following an expensive rights issue and recapitalisation. But housing is now providing grist for the grievance mill. The Farlam Commission that investigated the causes of the 2012 Marikana tragedy, Amnesty International, and the Department of Mineral Resources have slammed Lonmin for the fact that about 11,000 of its workers don’t have houses, which means they are living in dire conditions around Rustenburg. But the issue is more complex than it seems. Magara, who has made it his personal objective to meet almost every one of Lonmin’s employees since his appointment, and is in regular contact with Association of Mining and Construction Workers Union, can hardly be described as uncaring. He took on the top job in an arrogant and over-indebted company in the midst of a prolonged platinum price downturn, shortly after the Marikana shootings. In the past year, he’s managed to negotiate a peaceful wage settlement, cut costs, reduce the number of safety stoppages and report a small operating profit. But fears among analysts persist the company is burning cash and, amid an unsympathetic platinum price, Lonmin is running out of operational levers to draw down costs further.

LIFE OF BEN

A Zimbabwean by birth, he once said his first career choice was to be a bus driver. Instead, he studied mining engineering and worked for Anglo American after he qualified. He was head of engineering and projects at Anglo Platinum before becoming CEO of Anglo American’s coal operations in South Africa.

“It’s inhumane for a customer to want to buy this metal for the price they are getting.”