SA mining union calls for Minister Zwane to be removed

The call by NUM, a key ally of the ruling ANC, highlights growing political divisions in the party ahead of the December conference.

FILE: Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's biggest union in the gold sector called on Monday for Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to be removed from office, saying his move to freeze new mining rights threatened employment in an industry already bleeding jobs.

The call by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a key ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), highlights growing political divisions in the party months ahead of a key conference where it will elect a new leader to succeed President Jacob Zuma.

"We are about to ask the president to remove him as the minister because he is not assisting the country and the industry," NUM President Piet Matosa told a news conference.

"The relationship with minister Zwane is the worst that we have ever had," Matosa said.

NUM said in a statement that Zwane's intention to suspend the granting of applications for prospecting and mining rights pending a court case to review a new charter was a threat to jobs and investment in a sector marred by widespread lay-offs.

According to Chamber of Mines data, the number of jobs in the industry has fallen to 457,000 from almost 525,000 in 2012 in the face of rising costs, depressed prices, policy uncertainty and periodic bouts of labour and social unrest.

In the ANC succession race, the NUM is firmly behind Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a founder of the union and one of the chief negotiators in the talks that ended apartheid who went on to become a business tycoon.

Zwane is seen as a Zuma ally who is close to the Gupta family, wealthy businessmen widely alleged to have undue influence on Zuma and other government ministers.