‘The horse has bolted, do not shut the barn, recreate it in space to catch the elusive horse.’
I write this note on the eve of the second day of the Mining Imbizo by the Minister of Mining Resources Adv. Ngwako Ramathlodi .This is not an Indaba but Imbizo, an emergency call in African Culture to solve a specific urgent matter. This Imbizo is a great opportunity for oneness and a common purpose for South Africans to reshape the industry. To be blunt, redefine the Industry.
As a Diamontuer, Miner and Jewellery designer of more than 25 years’ experience. I feel well qualified to talk on this subject since I have lived the highs and the depths of this industry hands on. I have personal scares to show for it and lived both the upstream and downstream sections of this industry in Diamond, Gold, Platinum Iron Ore and Steel. I thought I must just get that out of the way right up front.
The biggest challenge of all the parties in this industry is that each sector sees itself more special than the other and deserving more percentage of the industry cake than the other. The biggest challenge here is their Egos. They all fail to see each other as sections of the same hand. And that the is no one without the other. Mine Management, Labour, Government and talking Heads.
All of them are hung up on ‘Commodity Prices’ and this is ‘Bull’ it assumes that the industry can only be structured one way.
I was talking to Thabiso Buku, one of the brightest minds we have, on our favourite chat line when suddenly a got a brain wave to write this article and give guidance. He pointed out that most of these challenges are quadratic and that they need different formulas and that left unattended tragic consequences could follow.ie a Marikana.
Let met deal with these Egos that I alluded to earlier Step by Step.
These professional managers can only think in a liner fashion and as a result they are fixated on ‘Commodity Price’ as the Holy Grail. They drive labour to produce as much raw materials as they can.Even if they die doing it.They then give themselves huge bonuses in good times or when the prices are high. They then resort to labour shedding when prices are low. No inventiveness is accommodated. At R1, 5m per month for some of them I do not think that this is deserved since there is no magic that they bring.
To their credit they have to deal with cranky shareholders when you consider the nature of mining investors.
It is now an open secret that the Labour Federation in South Africa is no more. To put it bluntly there is a famine of leadership. The two major unions Amcu & Num are at each other’s troughts.It is war, and as a result when ‘Elephants Fight the grass suffers’.
The focus for both in particular Amcu is to demand more money even at the expense of workers. Their leader is quoted as saying that compromise from their demands. Is farfetched and the language is war. Egos are now entering the arena and we all know that when egos are introduced, logic walks out of the window.
Upskilling of members is seen as a management prerogative as opposed to a union responsibility to its members. I have had personal experience where unions refused stupidly so that I make workers shareholders so that they can receive Salary,Overtime,bonus and dividents.Since they think that this will erode their power. These are the same people who get paid even when workers are on strike. These are the same people who claim to have the wellbeing of their members at heart. With friends like this who needs enemies.
The minister rightly edged that all parties ‘Lift the bar’. This should be the spirit of these negotiations.
The government should also ‘Lift the bar’ as well and stop being a toothless regulater.Have foresight and implement beneficiation even in good times. To me this department should be renamed ‘Mineral Resources and Beneficiation’. The minister’s yard stick is to reach 50% beneficiation of all produced minerals in his or her Tanure.If they cannot do this. They have no business in that office.
There are many issues that that can be introduced as to solve this impasss.One cannot fit them in the scope of this article .Many years ago I proposed a GOLD FUND and it is mis-implimented by the Industrial Development Corporation an organ of government. The less said about this the better.
Finally, I pray that sanity prevails at the Imbizo and if they fail, there are enough brains in South Africa who are not political animals but can solve the problem!
(This article was written with frustration, and sadness when you see your countrymen losing the plot)
Mac Donald Temane