New South African mines minister faces daunting year ahead – by Sungula Nkabinde ( – January 11, 2016)

The inexperienced Zwane is against the odds in his first full year at the helm.

President Jacob Zuma’s decision to replace the minister in the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), Ngoako Ramatlhodi with the inexperienced Mosebenzi Zwane in September last year came as a shock to the South African mining community.

Ramatlhodi, whose inclusive approach as mining minister restored some confidence in his historically maligned office, had been hands-on addressing critical matters such as the five-month long platinum strike of 2014, and, not long before the cabinet reshuffle, had begun talks between stakeholders to find a solution to arrest the spate of retrenchments happening throughout the sector.

Nevertheless, he was moved on to the Department of Public Service and Administration as minister, and replaced by Zwane, who had little to no experience in the sector and had reportedly been linked with the controversial Gupta family.

Many argued that the move displayed an alarming lack of urgency in government’s approach to South Africa’s ailing mining sector and its ambiguous regulatory framework. Because, despite the need for regulatory certainty, the DMR was not able to advance policy direction, or lack thereof, until the new minister had a competent understanding of the sector.

Fast forward four months and the global mining sector has begun 2016 in the worst way. China’s economic woes saw mining stocks plunge to record lows last week. ​South Africa’s mining industry is arguably facing its toughest test ever, plagued by depressed commodity prices, increasing costs, continuing industrial, social and political action, high wage and electricity increases, power disruptions, dwindling global demand – the list goes on.

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