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Constructive and sustainable transformation in South Africa

The transformation of the mining industry since the inception of democracy has undoubtedly been slow, however, some tangible progress is beginning to be made.

The mining industry has long been the backbone of the South African economy, accounting for a considerable chunk of the country’s total exports as well as employing a substantial portion of South Africa’s population. Considering this, the industry bears a responsibility to be at the forefront of the drive to promote constructive and sustainable transformation in South Africa.

The long shadow of South Africa’s dark Apartheid past still hangs over a majority of the country’s industries, with many sectors still struggling to meet their transformation targets. Unfortunately, the mining industry also falls into this category. Currently, of the 533 firms on Consulting Engineers South Africa’s (CESA) database, only 122 of these are black owned. In addition to this, the percentage of female engineers employed by CESA members is still only between 4-6% of total consulting engineers.

However, although these figures seem low, considerable progress has been made in addressing these issues in recent years. In a report released by ‘Chamber of Mines of South Africa’, it was revealed that 100% of the Chamber’s 95 mining rights holders have met the 2014 Charter target of a minimum of 26% of every mining company being owned by historically disadvantaged South Africans (HDSA), with its members actually exceeding the target by achieving 38% HDSA ownership.

Moving forward, transformation of the mining industry was always going to be a long, slow and difficult process, however it is absolutely necessary that it takes place. The implementation of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) policies has thus far encountered challenges due to the problem of ‘fronting’, which involves employing HDSA individuals without actually giving them any real power within the company. This practice simply isn’t sustainable and actually serves to undermine the transformation process.

Instead, the mining industry needs to take it upon themselves to implement a brand of transformation that is both constructive and sustainable moving forward. It is crucial that the mining industry treats transformation not as a secondary issue, but rather as a business framework through which all other business decisions need to be filtered. Only through this type of mind-set will constructive and sustainable transformation in South Africa become a reality.