Minerals Council urges mines to testify on ex-mines minister Zwane’s role
The Minerals Council SA has urged its members to approach the state-capture commission to reveal any underhand or irregular approaches or dealings with former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane and his departmental officials.
The council will itself not approach deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo’s commission of inquiry into how certain government departments and state-owned enterprises were corrupted and used for personal benefit. Zwane is a close associate of former president Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family, who are at the centre of the allegations of state capture.
"We have recommended to our members if they want to participate then they must. If the commission wants inputs from us, then fine," said council CEO Roger Baxter.
"We are not sitting as the people sitting with the safety audits and interactions with Zwane. That was individual companies. We had a discussion about it in the minerals council and the request was made to individual companies if they have specific evidence to use as the basis for engagement," Baxter said.
"We … had a clear perspective of what was going on and how many section 54 notices were issued illegally. We could do it at that level, but you need to be a lot more specific against Zwane."
A section 54 notice is an order by the department of mineral resources to close a mine to address safety issues.
During Zwane’s two-year spell as minister, safety stoppages and safety audits became the norm and were seen in the industry as a way to penalise and intimidate companies, according to an affidavit filed by mining lawyer Hulme Scholes in a case contesting the validity of the Mining Charter.
The most glaring example of undue ministerial and state influence was the way Eskom, the Gupta family and Zwane brought pressure to bear on Glencore and its Optimum colliery, resulting in the sale of the mine to a business owned by the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma, Tegeta Resources, according to the state of capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela. Eskom helped Tegeta pay for the transaction.
Zwane was part of a Gupta delegation that visited Glencore’s headquarters in Switzerland to persuade hardnosed CEO Ivan Glasenberg to sell Optimum.
Details of what transpired at that meeting have not been revealed. Glencore has declined any comment on participating in the state-capture inquiry. Zwane, the Guptas and Zuma’s son have denied wrongdoing in the Optimum transaction.
Some executives, asked whether they would participate to bring to light the pressure Zwane put on them to bend to his will, have said they would attend "if asked to do so", but many also spoke of a climate of fear and uncertainty as a hurdle.
Allegations against Zwane include putting pressure on mining companies to use Gupta-linked mining services companies. When Royal Bafokeng Platinum removed the Gupta mining contractor JIC Mining from its operations in 2017, for example, it was subjected to a high number of safety stoppages and audits.
Since taking over from Zwane earlier in 2018, Gwede Mantashe has shut the department’s offices in Limpopo and Mpumalanga to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, including of the improper demand of payments to lift safety stoppages and to process mining and exploration right applications.