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It was the talk of the Mining Indaba. On the eve of the annual indaba there was an invitation-only ministerial symposium at which the mineral resources minister was to have open and honest discussions with mining company CEOs and investors. This time, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe arrived at the symposium with a prepared speech. Whether he was supposed to be on the programme or not seems to be a matter of some debate, but what’s not in question is that he upstaged Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who was reduced to making a few bland comments. Mining Indaba folk wondered whether Radebe was there to babysit Zwane and ensure he didn’t say or do anything more to drive investors away than he had already, but whatever the motive, Radebe’s pre-indaba intervention was read as a clear message that said, in effect: don’t worry about Zwane, new people are in charge and the incumbent will soon be gone. In a sense, the surreal politics of the moment were playing out at the i...

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