Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Picture: SOWETAN
Picture: SOWETAN

Transformation in the mining industry should focus on quality over quantity, Mining Indaba advisory board member and former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni says.

Baleni was speaking to Business Day about the talks around the Mining Charter.

The far-reaching consultation process on the charter, set in motion by his NUM predecessor, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, has now been through five provinces. In the remaining provinces, the process will be concluded by the end of May, said Nathi Shabangu, the minister’s spokesman.

The High Court in Pretoria ruled on April 4 that the first two versions of the charter did not require producers to top up black shareholding levels in perpetuity if they previously met the minimum 26% requirement.

Baleni said once the industry dropped its court action against the charter, there appeared to be an assumption that mining companies would "get what they wanted". This resulted in renewed tension between the parties — with the first battle over whether to use the controversial charter presented by former minister Mosebenzi Zwane or draw up a new document.

Baleni said the Zwane draft was used as a starting point, but the key focus was the end result — a charter that focuses on quality rather than quantity as it had in the past. This approach is evident in Mantashe’s stance on the once empowered, always empowered issue, a court ruling he is appealing against.

Baleni said his interaction with the industry had shown that it wants "almost the status quo", including on the once empowered, always empowered issue.

But this was not ideal and it would be better to reach consensus through agreement than regulation. He said awareness around the need for transformation was at its highest, coupled with an "army of retrenchees". It was therefore critical for the government and the industry to get together to see how each could contribute positively.