‘The best person for the job is non-negotiable; absolutely, non-negotiable.’
PATRICE Motsepe is closer to the president’s ear than any other mining magnate in South Africa. So it is to be hoped that at family get-togethers he uses the opportunity to give his brother-in-law, Cyril Ramaphosa, a tongue-lashing about the electricity, logistics and water supply constraints that are strangling the country’s mining industry.
ARM has platinum group metal (PGM) operations (heavily reliant on sustainable and affordable electricity for processing) as well as iron ore, manganese and coal mines (all reliant on rail). Ramaphosa’s unfortunate selection of Portia Derby, an economist with no logistics experience, as CEO of Transnet, may well have come up for discussion, given the unfolding disaster at the parastatal that prompted her departure from Transnet in September. This may be what Motsepe was thinking of when he said at the 2023 results presentation: “The same principle applies to Eskom and any other parastatal: the principle of employing the best skills and expertise, the best person for the job, is non-negotiable. Absolutely non-negotiable.”
Although the rest of the mining industry has become more cautious about committing large amounts of capital in this environment, ARM itself has continued to invest in growth and expansion. It spent R7.2bn on capital projects in its 2023 financial year. ARM bought the mothballed Bokoni PGM project from Anglo American Platinum for R3.5bn in 2021 and plans are underway to build a UG2 underground mine at a cost of about R5.3bn. It will complete the Two Rivers Merensky project in its 2025 financial year. In manganese, it recently completed growth projects at Black Rock and Gloria. Whatever Motsepe might think about South Africa’s parastatal disasters, the group is showing confidence in the long-term future of the country.
LIFE OF PATRICE
Apart from his LLB degree, Motsepe holds a string of honorary doctorates and likes to be referred to as ‘doctor’. He has also received awards for outstanding leadership from bodies as diverse as Harvard University and the World Economic Forum. He practised as a lawyer at Bowmans before moving on to found contract mining company, Future Mining, in 1994. From there he built up a mining empire: first ARMGold and then African Rainbow Minerals. Under the Giving Pledge he committed to giving half of the Motsepe family’s wealth to the poor. Some $500m was donated in 2019.