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Zwane: I'll reveal my mining sector strategy soon

Mosebenzi Zwane has been sworn in as the new mineral resources minister.

New mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - New mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane has asked South Africans to give him time to settle into his new position but has promised to reveal his strategy in about a month's time.

Zwane takes over from Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who is now heading the public service and administration ministry, following the death of Collins Chabane earlier this year.

He was sworn in by Constitutional Court justice Johann van der Westhuisen at the Union Buildings on Wednesday.

South Africa is the world's largest platinum producer and Africa's largest gold exporter but the mineral resources department faces numerous challenges, including a looming wage strike in the mining sector, mining owners threatening to cut thousands of jobs and Eskom's power interruptions.

Zwane's appointment comes just weeks before the mining industry's operation Phakisa gets into gear, an initiative aimed at getting the troubled sector back into track.

He said he was ready and willing to carry out his tasks despite a cloud of uncertainty surrounding his portfolio.

"I'm sure that we'll all agree that you'll have to give me some chance to settle. And I'm sure that we'll meet in a month or so, where I'll be able then to say this is the direction, this is where we're going."

Zwane said he would not make any sudden changes in his new portfolio, but instead ensure that the work already introduced by his predecessor was completed successfully.

He said he plans to make South Africa proud.

"What I can say is that we'll not just come in and change willy-nilly. What has been there and it's good and we agree we'll move forward and ensure that we reach our destination right on time. Where we need to adjust, we'll definitely adjust without any hesitation."

Zwane said he believed he was the right man for the job and he was ready to face the challenges in his department.

He also said he had enough experience to handle the challenges.

"I've throughout my life been dealing with challenges. I've not rose to be where I'm mistakenly, I've walked through the ropes to be where I am."

The minister added he was honoured to have been entrusted with the new position.

REACTION

T he Chamber of Mines has now joined several industry role players in welcoming the appointment and says it hopes to meet with Zwane as soon as possible to discuss his view of the industry.

The chamber's Charmaine Russel said, "We look forward to a very constructive relationship with Minister Zwane and we have in fact sought a meeting with him."

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu)'s Joseph Mathunjwa said the president should have left Ramatlhodi in the position until 2016 and wonders whether the change was political.

When Ramatlhodi first came into office in May last year, he was able to resolve the five-month long platinum strike by the Amcu.

Amcu said the removal of Ramatlhodi from the department was done because took a tough stance against mining companies on black economic empowerment.

The context of this appointment could also lead to questions about Zwane's past.

The Mail & Guardian has previously reported that the department Zwane headed in the Free State sent an official investigation to an Indian provincial minister.

That invitation was then used as the justification to allow guests for a wedding of the Gupta family to land at the Waterkloof Airforce Base.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance's James Lorimer says Zwane's appointment is unlikely to solve the many problems wracking the mining industry.

"The word that I am using to describe this is inexplicable."

Lorimer says the reshuffle has come just weeks before operation Phakisa..

"Just before the start of this conference, the government substituted its major player. That sounds bizarre."

Lorimer adds South Africa needs a mining minster with experience and says that Zwane, deployed to the National Assembly from the Free State just two weeks ago, doesn't appear to have it.

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