- Member of Parliament Tony Leon told Mining Weekly Online at Gibs university in Johannesburg that the new minerals legislation had shed jobs: Danie de Beer. Video editor: Darlene Creamer. 11/08/08 (6.96 MB)
South Africa’s Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) had “massively” shed jobs in the mining sector and “massively” downgraded the country’s investment desirability in mining, former Opposition Leader Tony Leon MP said on Monday.
Leon said at GIBS university in Johannesburg that the one thing the world wanted from South Africa was its mining resources, but that South Africa had managed to create a situation where the biggest single outflow of foreign direct investment from the country was related to disinvestment in its mining.
“I think you can do it a better way,” he added. “You have got to be able to correct as you go along.”
Even prior to the Eskom electricity crisis, South African mining production had contracted and the country itself had moved from being the 25th most desirable mining investment destination to being the 53rd most desirable – “all in the space of two years”.
Leon said that he had been in Parliament when the MPRDA was enacted and there had been dancing and "everything else under the sun".
"It might have been necessary to make the State the custodian of the mineral rights. It might have been necessary to take all those bad old ugly white capitalist mining comanies and make them go and reapply for their mineral rights.
“It might have been necessary to make sure that every new mining investor entered into a strategic plan, which the Minister herself, personally, oversaw... all those were no doubt desirables.
“But the score board said that something was fundamentally wrong. The worst result was that 20 000 people lost their jobs in the same two years,” Leon said.
“When the score board goes in one direction, not in your favour, you have actually got to adjust,” he said.
He described as “a dangerous and delusional arrogance to assume that you know everything and that nobody else has a point of view that is worth considering”.
“Sometimes so much has been invested in a policy,” he quoted former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as saying, “that actually it is more difficult to abandon it than to reverse it”.
The business community had come on board for fear of losing their mining licences or of not having them renewed.