Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE
Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday said he was ready to take on another seemingly intractable problem: the impasse in the mining sector between producers and the Department of Mineral Resources over the new Mining Charter.

Speaking at a media conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ramaphosa spoke confidently about SA’s "new era" but also indicated that urgent action was needed to resolve the two-year impasse over the Mining Charter.

The Chamber of Mines has applied for a judicial review of the document, arguing that Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane overstepped his powers and ignored the mining industry’s objections to the new charter.

The charter has been suspended pending the outcome of a judicial review.

In an interview, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba strongly endorsed Ramaphosa’s decision, saying he was glad the deputy president had come out so strongly on the issue.

Gigaba has himself been involved in behind-the-scenes discussions with the department and the chamber in an effort to break the deadlock, arguing that the differences between the two sides do not warrant the intensity of the standoff. The chamber, however, absolutely insists that it will not enter into negotiations with Zwane, who it regards as having negotiated in bad faith and completely ignored the chamber’s standpoint.

"The issue is not to reverse black economic empowerment, but we need an extensive review of the charter so we can achieve a consensus," Gigaba said.

No meetings with the chamber or the department have yet been organised and there is no agreement on what the preconditions to new discussions may be. However, Gigaba said he expected that apart from Zwane, the deputy president and himself, the discussions could also include Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, who is the minister responsible for black economic empowerment legislation.

Gigaba said he would be open to the inclusion of an independent arbiter or, alternatively, the parties could simply discuss it among themselves.

The issue was urgent, he said, if SA was to resume a growth path. "If we are trying to transform but if there is no growth the transformation will be meaningless," he said.

Ramaphosa also came out with his most blunt statement on a nuclear build programme, saying: "We have to look where our economy is … we have excess power and we have no money.

"We have said the nuclear process will be looked at in the broad context of affordability."

Ramaphosa’s approach differs markedly from that of President Jacob Zuma, who has championed plans to build as many as eight reactors that would generate 9,600MW of energy starting from 2023 and could cost as much as R1-trillion — a programme critics say the country cannot afford and does not need.

Ramaphosa said the government should focus on developing other forms of renewable energy. Gigaba endorsed this too, ruling out the argument that SA could build a nuclear plant without incurring immediate costs and saying that eventually the economy would have to bear the costs.

"Nuclear must not imperil our sovereignty," said Gigaba.

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