Cyril needs more than words to reassure jittery miners
Why invest in a zinc smelter and refinery in SA when we can’t put crooks behind bars, or even keep the lights on?
No sooner had President Cyril Ramaphosa made his stirring address at the official opening of Vedanta’s Gamsberg zinc mine than Eskom sent a notification warning of power outages.
It put into context Ramaphosa’s fine words about investment in SA and the need for beneficiation to uplift communities, employment and boost mineral wealth.
It showed exactly why Vedanta wants an answer from the government on its potential $800m-$900m investment in a zinc smelter and refinery in SA when there is not enough electricity to keep the lights on, let alone keep major industries running.
It is not an exaggeration to say the damage wrought on the SA economy by the chronic mismanagement of Eskom is an absolute disgrace.
A story is told by Clinton Ephron, the former Glencore Coal SA CEO, about how Eskom’s executives Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko allegedly deliberately “stonewalled” efforts within the power utility and Glencore to save coal supply from Optimum colliery to the Hendrina power plant. It should be studied carefully by Ramaphosa and his team driving investment into SA.
If it is true, it would be the basest example of cronyism and petty use of power to force an experienced mining operator out – in favour of politically connected, corrupt and useless new owners in the form of the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma’s Tegeta Resources.
The Optimum example is a symptom of the corruption, malfeasance and outright criminality that prevailed in Eskom. Until Ramaphosa has scrubbed bad management out of state-owned enterprises and the law-enforcement agencies pursue, charge and jail miscreants, sending a clear message on corruption, the president’s hopes of a new dawn in mining and beneficiation will be impossible to realise.