SA mining sector “extremely disappointed” with Govt.’s lack of progress in structural reform

Roger Baxter, CEO, Minerals Council SA Pic: Martin Rhodes

SOUTH Africa’s mining sector was “extremely disappointed” the government had failed to make progress in structural reform in 2020, adding that President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet had to realise “… the only way to save South Africa from a downward spiral” was to improve its business competitiveness.

“We need urgent action from President Ramaphosa,” said Roger Baxter, CEO of the Minerals Council in a webcast with media ahead of the Mining Indaba, a conference due to open tomorrow at which Ramaphosa is to give a keynote address. “Words and good intentions don’t cut it in the world of the dollar and the yen,” said Baxter.

The Minerals Council contributed towards a raft of policy recommendations compiled by Business Unit South Africa’s (Busa’s) B4SA (Business for South Africa). Among suggestions was to overhaul state-owned enterprises or SoEs. “The SoE model has failed the nation, constraining growth,” said Baxter.

Asked if the government’s response time was likely to improve given the Covid-19 related headwinds facing it this year, Baxter said: “The one sector that has huge capacity is the private sector. We can’t help with issues of (mining) licensing owing to competition issues, but we can bring expertise on reforming electricity supply,” he said.

Baxter also said the mining sector could help distribute a Covid-19 vaccine to upwards of three million people in South Africa. He confirmed an earlier Reuters report which said the industry would spend R300m distributing the vaccine through its healthcare facilities.

“We need to put jabs into arms as quickly as possible. We can do 60,000 to 80,000 vaccinations a day; about three million in two months.” This included mining industry employees of some 450,000 and families and community members.

Baxter added that the mining industry could provide ‘top-up’ funding to acquire further vaccinations if the Government ran into a shortfall. “It is quite right Government does this,” he said of acquiring Covid-19 vaccines.

“What is needed is for Government to expedite its mandate for South Africa and to allow the private sector to provide support in the roll-out. The mining sector is willing and able to assist in the roll-out,” he said.

A batch of one million Covid-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India are due to arrive in South Africa today, with the additional delivery of 20 million Pfizer vaccines also on order. All in all, South Africa is thought to have secured about 40 million vaccines – enough for about 70% of its population.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY

Mxolisi Mgojo, president of the Minerals Council, said South Africa’s mining sector had emerged in reasonable shape following the Covid-19 lockdown announced in March. People employed fell 1.87% over the first three quarters of 2020 compared to 2019, although it was difficult to ascertain how employment has been directly affected by lockdown.

On an unadjusted or nominal basis, mining gross domestic product fell 4% to R3.61.6bn. After allowing for a 24% rise in commodity prices, the inflation-adjusted decline is 13%, however – in line with the council’s 10% to 13% decline forecast last year.