Gwede Mantashe. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Gwede Mantashe. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

There aren’t many people whose mere absence is a reason for considerable cheer, but former mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane is one person of whom this could be said without fear of contradiction.

This was never more evident than last week, when the high court confirmed that mining companies that had already done empowerment deals to sell 26% of their shares to black investors would not be compelled to do another deal when those shareholders sell out. In other words, the principle of "once-empowered, always-empowered" will prevail.

Zwane would probably have appealed against that court ruling. His successor, Gwede Mantashe, says government has no intention of doing so.

After years of Zwane prevaricating, this is in itself a victory for SA’s beleaguered mining houses.

Speaking this week, Mantashe said that companies whose empowerment partners had taken a quick profit and sold out should "not be punished". The minister has been in the job only a few weeks, but has already spoken far more sense in that time than Zwane managed in his two years in charge.

It’s a good omen for an industry that contributes 8% to SA’s GDP, especially ahead of the release of the revised mining charter, which Mantashe says is about 80% complete.