AngloGold Ashanti chairperson Sipho Pityana got no new major public endorsement for his battle to oust President Jacob Zuma, despite receiving a standing ovation at a major mining conference and setting up a foundation to fight for his cause.
The Chamber of Mines refused to comment on searing attacks on Zuma by its members at a meeting discussing the industry’s mounting woes. At the Joburg Indaba mining conference this week, Pityana repeated his call that the president resign, saying he was “the sponsor-in-chief of corruption” amid allegations of state capture.
“While the debate over state capture rages and corruption grows, we have a president who – at best – is missing in action. At worst, he is a leader at the very root of this crisis, one who has abrogated his constitutional duties and faces the threat of hundreds of corruption charges. Meanwhile, those closest to him appear to be beneficiaries of the disaster in governance and propriety in South Africa that is unfolding before our eyes,” said Pityana, who received a prolonged standing ovation after the speech.
In a terse one-line statement issued by its public relations company Russell & Associates, the Chamber of Mines said: “On this occasion, the chamber declines to comment on your queries.”
Pityana’s attack comes amid tensions between government and the mining industry over the latest Mining Charter and the court battle about the “once-empowered, always-empowered” principle.
Zuma’s office this week reacted to the growing demands for a leadership change, saying the public attacks by Pityana and Sibanye Gold CEO Neal Froneman were unwarranted as his office was open for dialogue with business.
The mining conference, attended by CEOs of the country’s biggest mining companies, including Anglo Platinum, Sibanye, AngloGold and Gold Fields, as well as representatives of banks and fund managers, repeatedly heard that South Africa was missing out on substantial local and foreign investment because of corruption, an uncertain regulatory environment and the inconsistent application of regulations.
“The key question is the regulatory environment,” said Chamber of Mines president Mike Teke. “Before the end of the year, we need to have found a solution to this.”
At the same time, prominent South Africans – including Pityana and former ministers Trevor Manuel and Barbara Hogan – are behind a new civil society group pushing for Zuma’s ousting, saying his stewardship of the economy has been disastrous.
Save SA this week requested an urgent meeting with Zuma to discuss his capacity to provide the leadership required to ensure stability and economic growth for the country. Calls to Zuma’s spokespeople Bongani Majola and Bongani Ngqulunga went unanswered and weren’t returned by the time of going to press.
Former finance minister Manuel and former public enterprises minister Hogan are on the steering committee of the new grouping, which is led by Pityana. The other members are Mark Heywood of Section 27, ANC member Gugu Ndima and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s CEO, Shan Bolton.
The group says that if Zuma doesn’t resign, it intends to approach the Speaker of the National Assembly and request his impeachment. Zuma has already survived one such attempt in Parliament, where the ANC commands a clear majority.
Manuel’s group joins a growing chorus of voices seeking the departure of the president, who has been accused of poor leadership and a lack of morals and integrity, especially after the Constitutional Court found he had violated his oath of office over his Nkandla home upgrades.
Gold Fields chairperson Cheryl Carolus said in April that Zuma should step aside, but she wasn’t available to comment this week.
Cas Coovadia, managing director of the Banking Association of SA, said the association did not have a formal statement to make about Pityana’s comments.
Business Unity SA (Busa) CEO Khanyisile Kweyama said that Pityana and AngloGold Ashanti CEO Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan wrote a letter to Busa asking the organisation to join the cause to have the president step down.
However, Busa decided not to join the call and had chosen the route of engagement to raise its issues, Kweyama said.
Coovadia said – strictly in his personal capacity – that the Save SA formation was appropriate as the country was facing a “significant crisis”.
An example of the issues engulfing the country was the crisis at local universities, he said.
Livhuwani Mammburu, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesperson, said that the NUM national executive committee had decided that Zuma should finish his term because his departure would cause too much instability in the country.
The Black Business Council didn’t respond to a request for comment, but supports Zuma completing his term.
The Black Management Forum didn’t respond to a request for comment.