'We’re not undermining Minister Zwane'

The ANC announced that its economic transformation sub-committee had been asked to coordinate a longer-term future for the mining industry beyond the current spat over the new mining charter.

FILE: Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: Dumelang Media

JOHANNESBURG – African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe says the party’s national executive committee (NEC) is not undermining Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane but does have a responsibility to help him appreciate he must not hurt the economy.

The party announced on Monday that its economic transformation sub-committee had been asked to coordinate a longer-term future for the mining industry beyond the current spat over the new mining charter.

Zwane published the new mining charter without consulting the mining industry and then published a moratorium on new prospecting rights.

The Chamber of Mines is challenging both decisions in court.

Mantashe says they are not reducing Zwane’s power.

“We’re not undermining Minister Zwane, we’re having a responsibility to help him appreciate the fact that we should do things in a particular that do not affect the economy negatively.”

Meanwhile, South Africa's biggest union in the gold sector called on Monday for 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 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.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)