Gigaba sets December deadline for MPRDA, re-opens Charter talks

South Africa finance minister, Malusi Gigaba

SOUTH Africa has set itself six months to agree on amendments to its keystone mining legislation – the Minerals & Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) – and would formally re-open negotiations on a redraft of the Mining Charter.

The country’s finance minister, Malusi Gigaba, said his government had targeted December for completion of the MPRDA which has been stuck in a parliamentary process for more than two years. This was part of a larger nine point plan to rescue the South African economy which is in recession.

Unveiling the plan, which also set down steps for improving the finances and management of state-owned companies by partially privatising them, Gigaba charged his counterpart in the mines ministry, Mosebenzi Zwane, to “… finalize the MPRDA Amendment Bill in a manner that reflects the inputs civil society, labour and industry solicited through the public consultation process”. The timeline put on this was December 2017.

Amendments to the MPRDA are currently being heard in the National Council of Provinces, the upper house of parliament – a process that has been delayed as the procedure for doing this has not been followed correctly.

One the important amendments in the MPRDA is thought to be to give the force of law to the Mining Charter. Currently the Mining Charter is policy whilst the MPRDA is law; in addition, it does not allow for changes to the made to the Mining Charter such as those gazetted on June 15.

But even the permanence of those changes has been thrown into doubt because Gigaba’s plan to improve the South African economy has called for negotiations on the document to resume by conducting “… further engagements with civil society, labour and industry”.

The Chamber of Mines has been critical of the Mining Charter redraft – its third since its 2004 debut – saying the targets were impractical and that certain of its provisions would discourage new investments and hurt jobs. It said some of the most important points of the Mining Charter had been written in the final few months before its publication and without much formal negotiation with the mining sector.

“Government has been deeply engaged with the issue of low economic growth and the recession, analysing its impact on social welfare, and considering an appropriate response,” Gigaba said at a presentation at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange today. “These interventions are the beginning of a response programme that will be unpacked in the MTBPS [medium-term budget policy statement] and the 2018 budget,” Gigaba said