[miningmx.com] – FORMER mining industry leaders weighed into the debate regarding the replacement of South African mines minister, Ngoako Ramalthodi, with the relatively unknown Free State politician, Mosebenzi Zwane.
Speaking at the Joburg Indaba, a mining conference, former AngloGold Ashanti CEO, Bobby Godsell, said it was “… a very strange time” to have moved Ramatlhodi only 18 months into the job.
“The previous minister had 18 months to find his desk,” said Godsell. “It seems a strange time to change leadership as he was making progress”.
On September 8, President Jacob Zuma unveiled a cabinet shuffle including the surprise shift of Ramatlhodi to the ministry of Public Service and Administration. Ramalthodi replaced the late Collins Chabane.
James Motlatsi, the former union leader, and now head of Teba, said it was necessary for the South African government to have consulted the industry and unions before making the surprise move.
“My advice would be before you change the minister, approach organised labour and the captains of industry because you are disrupting the problems that are already in the pipeline,” said Motlatsi.
Bernard Swanepoel, formerly head of Harmony Gold and Village Main Reef, said he was non-plussed about the appointment of Zwane. “The first we know about him is an article in the Mail & Guardian,” he said in a welcome address at the conference.
The Mail & Guardian reported on Zwane’s close ties to the influential Gupta family with whom Zuma is friendly including his role in having the Gupta’s land at Waterkloof military base circumventing the country’s formal border controls.
Mining industry leaders also issued words of caution regarding ‘Operation Phakisa’, a government-backed tripartite meeting with labour and mining firms aimed at tackling challenges in the mining sector including labour relations and transformation.
Said Trevor Manuel, advisor and deputy chairman to Rothschilds, of the Operation Phakisa agenda: “Phakisa is a long list, it’s a nice list, but it’s a list for nice conversation”. He added that Phakisa needed to deal with tough issues including productivity and labour relations.
“This is not a smoke-filled room conversation so that by the end of the fourth bottle of red wine everyone is feeling loved,” said Manuel. “Once the problems have been identified, the individuals involved have to go to the public and commit to solve them,” he added.
Godsell said private conversations between mining leaders have to be honest. “I’m much more concerned with the private conversations; it’s the honesty we need in those.
“In South Africa, we insult each other in public, but we are nice to each other in private. The private discourse is more important. Private conversation in Operation Phakisa is very important,” he said.