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Mining Charter Back To Square 26



The new amended Mining Charter – the agreement that governs black ownership in the mines – has been a festering sore for more than four years. The employers and unions have disputed it, lawyers have argued over it and yet no one seems to be able to agree on one of the most important documents in Africa’s most lucrative industry.

Love it or loathe it, the mining industry in South Africa employed more than 450,000 people, with a trickle down that supports an estimated 4.5 million people, contributing  7.1% to GDP, in 2016. In the same year, it racked up sales of more than $30 billion. It may be a far cry from the industry’s heyday in the 1980s, when it employed a million people, but it is still too big to ignore.

Cars run on South African-mined platinum, in their catalytic convertors, from New York to Paris; around half of all the gold on the fingers and locked in the bank vaults across the world was unearthed and refined in and around Johannesburg in more than a century of mining.

READ MORE: The Trouble With Mining In Africa

This treasure trove of wealth is the main reason why the fight over the Mining Charter has been so intense and emotive. It is an agreement, not legislation, agreed by employers and government to foster black empowerment.

It came into force in in 2004 amid a blaze of publicity claiming the industry was going to be swiftly transformed, towards more black ownership, in a decade. Instead, when 2014 came around there was uncertainty, a lack of direction, and questions in the corridors of power whether the Mining Charter had achieved anything at all.

The mining employers fear the Mining Charter has scared off foreign investors and is part of a severe decline in this industry. In 2016, according to Statistics South Africa, the South African mining industry’s real GDP was 2.6% smaller than in 1994. The thriving financial services sector grew by 168% over the same period.

The Chamber of Mines – that represents 90% of South African mining companies – called the amendments the last nail in the coffin when they came out last year. The former mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane called the amended Mining Charter the key to changes in the industry that will benefit the black majority – for so many decades seen as mere cheap labor in the mines.

The zealots in the government – who were pushing the amendments – want radical change in mining. They see it as a pillar of the establishment in apartheid days where black sweated labor was used to create the wealth to keep the status quo.

When the amendments were released they were dramatic and controversial. An increase in black ownership from 26% to 30% with a rider that this be maintained at all times. The mining employers bridled at this clause because they argue for a “once empowered, always empowered” rule that stipulates that once they have borne the cost of transferring ownership to new black owners they are deemed to have done their job. One of the bugbears of the black empowerment game is dilution.

That is, after the lock-in period, black shareholders often cash in their stakes, which dilutes the overall black owned percentage, leaving the employers with the arduous task of starting again. If the “once empowered, always empowered” principle was upheld by the courts it would mean most of the major mining companies could claim they had done their job.

On top of this were a raft of amendments that the Chamber of Mines objected to and one or two the lawyers called illegal. Among them, a stipulation that 1% of the revenue be paid to black shareholders before any others are considered. Mining lawyers consider this to be an illegal flaw – in contravention of the Companies Act – in a Mining Charter that was rushed and poorly written.

“It is open to discretion, with very unclear rules that make it very difficult to invest with that level of uncertainty and that is the long and short of it,” says Peter Leon, mining law expert with Herbert Smith Freehills in Johannesburg. He also considers another clause about the writing off of dividends, to be repaid by black shareholders in fees for shares, to be tantamount to expropriation.

The Chamber of Mines claims the Mining Charter is unconstitutional and written without proper consultation. Its lawyers were ready to argue this in a three-day judicial review of the Mining Charter by a powerful bench of three judges, at the High Court in Pretoria, on February 9, 10 and 11.

At the eleventh hour, South Africa’s new president Cyril Ramaphosa – a mining man to his boots – made good on a promise in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos to intervene. His officials persuaded the Chamber of Mines to hold off with its legal challenge to give negotiation another chance.

It means the regulation of the industry will fall back on the previous charter, with its 26% black ownership target, that most companies had priced in and come to terms with.

Outside the court on the day was a throng of singing and dancing protestors who could prove a fly in the ointment. These were the people who live with the mines and their dust and disruption.

They had traveled for hundreds of kilometers, with their lawyers in tow, from tiny villages across South Africa to make their point in Pretoria. They wanted a seat at the negotiating table and the court ruled that they should get one.

The mining communities making their debut in the Mining Charter talks, alongside government, unions and mining employers, could add more time and dimensions to what is already likely to be a complex debate.

The Chamber of Mines has flagged this as a difficulty in negotiations. Mining companies often struggle to deal with power shifts and conflicting leadership claims in communities around mining – especially when the money starts flowing.

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This puts the prediction of wrapping it all up by June, made by the new mining minister Gwede Mantashe, in severe doubt.

“We will finish it within three months, I am putting that timeframe for myself,” says Mantashe.

“A new Mining Charter that is well designed and reached through an inclusive negotiation process needs to be finalized as soon as possible,” says the Chamber of Mines in response.

In many ways, a crumb of comfort for the employers is that the new man Mantashe is also a mining man down to his boots and a world away from his disliked predecessor Zwane. Mantashe, the former leader of the biggest union in Africa, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), is known in the industry as an honest broker and skilled negotiator.

“You could say Gwede has mining in his blood,” says Elize Strydom, a former legal head and chief negotiator at the Chamber of Mines, who sat across the table from Mantashe in wage talks for nearly a decade.

“The good thing always was when Gwede said you had a deal, you had a deal, and you could go home and sleep soundly.”

Mantashe, who is also the chairman of the ruling African National Congress, will have his work cut out for him over the next three months to make good on his promise and sort out what is probably the most tricky and crucial set of regulations in one of Africa’s biggest economies. It is not going to be easy reconciling the wishes of a multi-million-dollar investor and a poor villager living in the shadow and dust of a mine.

Any foreign investor or any African business connected to mining will hope Mantashe does so.

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Current Affairs

The Rage And Tears That Tore A Nation




Snapshots of the outrage against foreign nationals and protests against sexual offenders in South Africa in recent weeks, captured by FORBES AFRICA photojournalist Motlabana Monnakgotla.

As the continent’s second-biggest economy, South Africa attracts migrants from the rest of Africa. But mired in its own problems of unemployment and political instability, September saw a serious outbreak of attacks by South Africans on foreign nationals and foreign-owned businesses. And they have been ugly.    

The spark that fueled the raging fire was in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district (CBD).

The altercation caused a riot and the taxi industry brought the CBD to a standstill, blocking intersections. It did not stop there; a week later, about 60 kilometers from the capital in Malvern, a suburb east of the Johannesburg CBD, a hijacked building caught fire, leaving three dead. As emergency services were putting out the fire, the residents took advantage and looted foreign-owned shops and burned car dealerships overnight on Jules Street.

The lootings extended to the CBD and other parts of Johannesburg.

To capture this embarrassing moment in South African history, I visited Katlehong, a township 35 kilometers east of Johannesburg, where the residents blocked roads leading to Sontonga Mall on a mission to loot the mall and the foreign-owned shops therein overnight.

Shop-owners and workers were shocked to wake up to no business.

Mfundo Maljingolo, a worker at Fish And Chips, was among the distressed.

“This thing started last night, people started looting and broke into the mall and did what they wanted to do. I couldn’t go to work today because there’s nothing to do; now, we are not going to get paid. The shop will be losing close to R10,000 ($677) today. It’s messed up,” said Maljingolo.

But South African businesses were affected too.

Among the shops at the mall is Webbers, a clothing and footwear store. Looters could not enter the shop and it was one of the few that escaped the vandalism.

Dineo Nyembe, the store’s manager, said she was in disbelief when she saw people could not enter the mall.

“We got here this morning and the ceiling was wrecked but there was no sign that the shop was entered, everything was just as we left it. Now, we are packing stock back to the warehouse, because we don’t know if they are coming back tonight,” lamented Nyembe, unsure if they would make their daily target or if they would be trading again.

 Across the now-wrecked mall are small businesses that were not as fortunate as Webbers, and it was not only the shop-owners that were affected. 

Emmanuel Nhlane’s home was robbed even as attackers were looting the shop outside.

“They broke into my house, I was threatened with a petrol bomb and I had to stand outside to give them a chance; they took my fridge, bed, cash and my VHS,” said Nhlane.

Nhlane had rented out his yard to foreign nationals to operate a shop. He does not comprehend why his belongings were taken because he doesn’t own a shop. Now, it means that the unemployed Nhlane will not be getting his monthly rental fee of R3,700 ($250).

Far away, the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, was also affected as trucks burned and a driver was killed because of his nationality. This was part of a logistics and transport industry national strike.

Back in Johannesburg, I visited the car dealerships that were a part of the burning spree on Jules Street.

The streets were still ashy and the air still smoky, two days after the unfortunate turn of events.

Muhamed Haffejee, one of the distraught businessmen there, said: “Currently, we are still not trading.” 

Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa, which hosted the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa from September 4 to 6, was also witness to protests by women and girls from all walks of life outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, demanding that the leadership take action to end the spate of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

There were protests also outside Parliament. What set off the nationwide outcry was the shocking rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old film and media student at the University of Cape Town, inside a post office by a 42-year-old employee at the post office.

There was anger against the ghastly crimes and wave of GBV in the country that continues unabated. According to Stats SA, there has been a drastic increase of women-based violence in South Africa; sexual offences are up by 4.6%, from 50,108 in 2018 to 52,420 in 2019.

A week later, on a Friday, Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile and one of the biggest economic hubs, was shut down by hundreds of angry women and members of advocacy groups from across Johannesburg. They congregated by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the cynosure of business, singing and chanting, to demand “a 2% levy on profits of all listed entities to help fund the fight against GBV and femicide”.   

Among the protesters was Cebi Ngqinanbi, holding a placard that read: “I’m not your punching bag.”

“We came here to disrupt Sandton as the heart of Johannesburg’s economic hub. We want to make everyone aware that women and children are being killed every day in South Africa and they [Sandton] continue with business as usual, sitting in their offices with air-conditioners and the stock exchange whilst people on the ground making them rich are dying. That is why we are here, to speak to those that have economic power,” said Ngqinanbi.

She added that if women can be given economic power, they will be able to fend for themselves and won’t fall prey to abusive men, since most women stay in abusive relationships because men are more financially stable.

Amid the chanting and singing of struggle songs, Nobuhle Ajiti addressed the crowd and shared her own haunting experience as a migrant in South Africa and survivor of GBV. She spoke in isiZulu, a South African language.

“I survived a gang rape; I was thrown out of a moving car and stabbed several times. I survived it, but am I going to survive xenophobia that is looming around in South Africa? Will I able to share my xenophobia story like I can share my GBV story?” questioned Ajiti.

She said as migrants, they did not wake up in the morning and decide to come to South Africa, but because of the hardships faced in their home countries, they were forced to come to what they perceived as the city of opportunities. And as a foreign national, she had to deal with both xenophobia and GBV.

“We experience institutionalized xenophobia in hospitals; we are forced to pay huge amounts for consultation. I am raped and I need medical attention and I am told I need to pay R5,000 ($250).

“As a mere migrant, where am I going to get R5,000? I get abused at home and the police officer would ask me where I’m from because of my accent, I sound Zimbabwean. What does my nationality have to do with my husband beating me at home or with the man that just raped me?” she asked.

Women stop traffic while they hold up placards stating their grievences against GBV. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Addressing the resolute women outside was the JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King who received the memorandum demanding business take their plight seriously, from a civil society group representing over 70 civil society organizations and individuals.

The list of demands include that at all JSE-listed companies contribute to a fund to resource the National Strategy Plan on GBV and femicide, to be launched in November; transport for employees who work night shifts or work after hours; establish workplace mechanisms to provide support to GBV survivors as part of employee wellness, and prevention programs that help make workplaces safe spaces for all women.

Newton-King assured the protestors she would address their demands in seven days. But a lot can happen in seven days. Will there be more crimes in the meantime? How many more will be raped and killed in South Africa by then?

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How LinkedIn Is Looking To Help Close The Ever-Growing Skills Gap





As the job market has evolved, so too have the skills required of seekers. But when 75% of human resources professionals say a skills shortage has made recruiting particularly challenging in recent months, it would appear as though the workforce hasn’t quite kept pace. Now LinkedIn is stepping in to help close the gap.

On Tuesday, the professional social network announced the launch of a “Skills Assessments” tool, through which users can put their knowledge to the test. Those who pass are given the opportunity to display a badge that reads “passed” next to the skill on their profile pages, a validation of sorts that LinkedIn hopes will encourage skills development among its users and help better match potential employees with the right employers.  

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“We see an evolving labor market and much more sophistication in how recruiters and hiring managers look for skills. … We also see a changing learning market,” says Hari Srinivasan, senior director of product management at LinkedIn Learning. “The combination of those two made us excited about changing our opportunity marketplace to make the hiring side and the learning side work better together.”

So how exactly does it work? Let’s say a user wants to showcase her proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Rather than simply listing “Excel” in the skills section of her profile, she can take a multiple-choice test to demonstrate the extent to which she is an expert.

If she aces the test, not only will a badge verifying her aptitude will appear on her profile, but she will be more likely to surface in searches by recruiters, who can search for candidates by skill in the same way they might do so by college or employer. If she fails, she can take the test again, but she’ll have to wait a few months—plenty of time to develop her skillset.   

The tool has been in beta mode since March, and while just 2 million people have used it—a mere fraction of LinkedIn’s 630 million members—early results seem promising. According to LinkedIn, members who’ve completed skills assessments have been nearly 30% more likely to land jobs than their counterparts who did not take the tests.

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“This has been a really good way for members to represent what they know, what they are good at,” says Emrecan Dogan, LinkedIn group product manager.

While new to LinkedIn, the practice of assessing candidates’ skills has been a standard among hiring managers for decades. But when research commissioned by LinkedIn revealed that 69% of employees feel that skills have become more important to recruiters than education, LinkedIn felt as though this was the time to give job seekers the opportunity to prove themselves from the get-go.

As important as the hard skills that members can put to the test through LinkedIn’s new tool may be, Dawn Fay, senior district president at recruiting firm Robert Half, encourages those on both side of the job search not to forget the importance of soft skills. “You wouldn’t want to rule somebody in or out just based on how they did on one particular skill assessment,” she says.

“Have another data point that you can use, question people about how they did on something and see if it’s something that can feed into the puzzle to find out if somebody is going to be a good fit.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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Why The High Number Of Employees Quitting Reveals A Strong Job Market





While recession fears may be looming in the minds of some, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy and job market may actually be strengthening.

The quits rate—or the percentage of all employees who quit during a given month—rose to 2.4% in July, according to the BLS’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover report, released Tuesday. That translates to 3.6 million people who voluntarily left their jobs in July.

This is the highest the quits rate has been since April 2001, just five months after the Labor Department began tracking it. According to Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, the quits rate tends to be a reflection of the state of the economy.

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“The level of the quits rate really is a sign of how strong the labor market is,” he says. “If you look at the quits rate over time, it really drops quite a bit when the labor market gets weak. During the recession it was quite low, and now it’s picked up.”

The monthly jobs report, released last week, revealed that the economy gained 130,000 jobs in August, which is 20,000 less than expected, and just a few weeks earlier, the BLS issued a correction stating that it had overestimated by 501,000 how many jobs had been added to the market in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. Yet despite all that, employees still seem to have confidence in the job market.Today In: Leadership

The quits level, according to the BLS, increased in the private sector by 127,000 for July but was little changed in government. Healthcare and social assistance saw an uptick in departures to the tune of 54,000 workers, while the federal government saw a rise of 3,000.

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The July quits rate in construction was 2.4%, while the number in trade, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality were 2.6%, 3.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Bunker of Indeed says that the industries that tend to see the highest rate of departuresare those where pay is relatively low, such as leisure and hospitality. An unknown is whether employees are quitting these jobs to go to a new industry or whether they’re leaving for another job in the same industry. Either could be the case, says Bunker.

In a recently published article on the industries seeing the most worker departures, Bunker attributes the uptick to two factors—the strong labor market and faster wage growth in the industries concerned: “A stronger labor market means employers must fill more openings from the ranks of the already employed, who have to quit their jobs, instead of hiring jobless workers. Similarly, faster wage growth in an industry signals workers that opportunities abound and they might get higher pay by taking a new job.”

Even so, recession fears still dominate headlines. According to Bunker, the data shows that when a recession hits, employers pull back on hiring and workers don’t have the opportunity to find new jobs. Thus, workers feel less confident and are less likely to quit.

READ MORE | South Africa’s Informal Sector: Why People Get Stuck In Precarious Jobs

“As the labor market gets stronger, there’s more opportunities for workers who already have jobs. So they quit to go to new jobs or they quit in the hopes of getting new jobs again,” Bunker says. He also notes that recession fears may have little to do with the job market, instead stemming from what is happening in the financial markets, international relations or Washington, D.C.

So what does the BLS report say about the job market? “Taking this report as a whole, it’s indicating that the labor market is still quite strong, but then we lost momentum,” Bunker says. While workers are quitting their jobs, he says that employers are pulling back on the pace at which they’re adding jobs. “While things are quite good right now and workers are taking advantage of that,” he notes, “those opportunities moving forward might be fewer and fewer if the trend keeps up.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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