The judicial challenge launched by the South Africa Mining Council against the implementation of the Mining Charter that was issued last year reeks of neo-colonialism, colonial privilege and is threat to the attainment of economic freedom in South Africa.
The 2018 Mining Charter included a number of key changes to the country’s mining laws, including the extension of a period within which companies must ensure 30% of their operations are owned by black South Africans from one to five years. While the new Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) rules aim to address generations of racial inequality in the sector, a sector which has been dominated by minority interest since Rhodes built the foundation of the De Beers interest in Kimberly back in the nineteenth century.
One of the key concerns of the Minerals Council is that the Charter does not adhere to the once empowered, always empowered principle”. The new restrictions do not lower the black owned equity threshold for a company if the equity is sold off to a nonblack investor. These new restrictions are commendable as they prevent some black investors from abusing a privilege meant to “reduce income equality to their own benefit.
If the new rules are to come into effect, they will ring fence the equity that is attributable to a section of the society that has been marginalised for years. If removed there is a risk that the percentage attributable to the blacks will completely be depleted in the years to come as stakes are slowly transferred to white owners and abuse of the facility arises.
The fact that the companies are objecting to the obligation to maintain this obligation in the future means they are not committed to the long-term goals of the black empowerment programmes. It is worrying considering that the trust in white monopolistic culture in South Africa is low after scandals such as the Oppenheim scandal who have been facing charges of state capture and manipulation of their power.
What would hurt the companies from maintaining this bare minimum guarantee to the community they exist in? The sad part is that the focus of the mining companies remains on the attractiveness of the policy to attract investors. How about the community they serve, the workers who wake up every day to go into the elevator? Is the attractiveness of the mining companies to these not matter as well?
The government of South Africa will hopefully not be content with meagre taxes and royalties paid whilst firms such as Anglo-American plunder the resources of Africa for our former colonial masters in London. It is the poverty they have left in places such as Marikana that causes so much instability, regular strikes and industrial action. It is sad that they do not see that it is such self-centredness that has led to violent protests against the contraction of new mines and a protracted strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold operations.
The battle for economic self-determination is the last front in the efforts for a truly free Africa. The words by the mines ministry of South Africa that it would strongly oppose the judicial challenge are admirable. It called the Mining Charter a workable framework to economically transformation the industry.
“Delaying the implementation of the charter will impact negatively on the positive climate characterizing mining and economic investment at present,” the Department of Mineral Resources said in a statement.