On the eve of the Mining Indaba, it’ll be deeply embarrassing for mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane that his department is now being dragged to court by Neal Froneman’s Sibanye for R26.8m in damages.
The indaba is scheduled to be held in Cape Town in two weeks, when the message will be that foreign investors can still make rich rewards in return for ploughing money into SA’s mining sector.
But Froneman’s lawsuit sends an alternative message: that arbitrary and heavy-handed actions by bureaucrats can do immeasurable damage. In other words, there is big risk too.
In this case, after a fatal accident at one of Kroondal’s shafts last August, Zwane’s officials shut down all five shafts — leading to Sibanye losing millions.
It won’t help Zwane’s quest to be taken seriously. Within a year, he has distinguished himself as perhaps the worst of the post-apartheid mining ministers — and it’s not as if it’s a high bar anyway.
Unlike his hands-on predecessor, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, Zwane has been all but invisible to the industry.
Instead, he has spent his time working on an interministerial committee tasked with villainising the banks and aiding the Guptas — not even his portfolio.
Amid talk of a looming cabinet reshuffle, it would be fitting if Zwane’s short tenure in government ended here.