Chamber of Mines CEO Roger Baxter
Chamber of Mines (CoM) CEO Roger Baxter has confirmed that CoM executives and office bearers purposefully decided not to attend Tuesday evening’s Joburg Indaba banquet, where Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane was the guest speaker.
“It was not an impetuous decision. It was not a decision based on personal animosity towards the Minister. It was a carefully considered decision based on the current regulatory and judicial situation,” noted Baxter, addressing the press at the Joburg Indaba on Wednesday.
The last time the chamber shared a platform with the Minister was in September at the Africa Down Under conference in Perth, Australia, explained Baxter, adding that the outcome was not constructive and marked the relationship deterioration between Zwane and the industry.
“Zwane told investors that the Mining Charter had become law, without mentioning legal challenges and court dates proposed by the chamber. For us to have attended last night’s event would have forced us to engage with the Minister on specific regulatory issues in circumstances that are simply not conducive to any constructive engagement at this stage, other than through the courts.”
The CoM has submitted an application to the court to have the charter interdicted.
“Not only has Zwane unilaterally published a charter, whose full implementation would destroy the industry, he also recklessly sought to introduce a moratorium on approving new rights or amending rights. He did so on the basis of his refusal to engage on the issues,” Baxter said.
He explained that the gazetted charter established an agency that would administer billions of rands a year, appropriated from the industry, with no indications of plans for good governance.
“This comes on top of a very questionable history. He came in as Minister, seemingly with the primary task of strong-arming a legitimate rights holder of a major mining asset, conspiring with then State-owned Eskom leadership to apparently force the sale of a mine to a well-known family that has systematically robbed South Africa of public funds,” said Baxter.
He added that the story was comprehensively documented by the Public Protector, in the form of the report on State capture, and that the Minister had done nothing to explain his role in the matter.
“Prior to that, in his previous position as Agricultural MEC, his alleged role in channelling hundreds of millions in State funds to the same family for the establishment of a dairy at taxpayers’ expense has also been comprehensively documented with, again, no attempt at an explanation by him,” Baxter said.
He pointed out that this pattern of behaviour makes it impossible for the industry to engage confidently with him about the future of the industry.
“We know that a new charter has to be developed. We stand ready to do so with government leaders of integrity and with all other stakeholders. We have been seeking to do this for the past two years without success,” he said.
Baxter concluded that the Chamber was currently focused on legal remedies, as it is the only available course of action in which the mining body had confidence.