THE BOTTOM LINE
Sticking the knife into Gold Fields won’t help anybody
Gwede Mantashe tears into Gold Fields managers about the month-long strike at the South Deep mine
The bellicose tone of mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe tearing into the management of Gold Fields about the month-long strike at the South Deep mine is yet another instance in which the minister raises eyebrows.
To make public his views on the management acting in “bad faith” in dealing with the 1,500 job cuts at the perennially unprofitable South Deep mine is one thing, but making a serious allegation like that is quite another.
In a situation featuring high levels of violence and intimidation, the minister’s comments are inflammatory and give the strikers the sense they have a powerful ally against executives trying to save a failing mine. For an industry regulator to be seen taking sides is far from ideal.
Anyone with an interest in SA’s mining industry would think that Mantashe, the former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, is siding with the union, which has called a strike at South Deep to protest against the job cuts.
Another thought arises from the minister’s exhortation at the Joburg Mining Indaba that there was to be no more negativity against each other in public. Thinking about those comments again, he did sound like he was reprimanding mining executives for speaking about their difficulties encountered with Mantashe’s department in securing licences, corruption and years of regulatory uncertainty.
It’s no good for one party to be as aggressive as Mantashe in this week’s accusations against Gold Fields. He could have saved that for those closed-door sessions that he said at the indaba he favoured, where discussions could be as full and as robust as necessary without tainting investor perceptions about SA.
Whoever is advising Mantashe would do well to heed their principal’s own advice to the industry. If it’s Mantashe himself, well, practising what he preaches would be helpful.