Cape Town – The partially redrafted Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) amendment bill will pass constitutional muster this time around, Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane said on Tuesday.
Speaking in the National Assembly on the amendment bill, which had been sent back to Parliament two-and-a-half years ago and was now again considered by the National Assembly, Zwane said the amended legislation will improve the ease of doing business, address shortfalls in legislation and support local beneficiation and industrialisation efforts.
At the Mining Indaba in Cape Town earlier this year, Zwane undertook to provide certainty in the mining sector by seeing that the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces pass the bill.
President Jacob Zuma referred the bill back to Parliament early in 2015, because of doubts that it would pass constitutional muster. According to legal advice Zuma obtained, there were also flaws in the consulting processes with traditional leaders and communities as well as reservations about whether the bill would hamper South Africa’s existing international trade agreements.
DA spokesperson on mining James Lorimer however said in his speech that the bill contains the same clauses the DA cautioned about earlier.
"Here it is – back again with only a few flaws fixed,” Lorimer said, adding that the mining sector is unanimous that the current uncertainty in the industry "is better than the certainty of a 'bad bill'."
Lorimer said the MPRDA amendment bill passed in its current form will give Zwane “massive powers”.
“The minister would be able to hand out mining rights to friends or cronies, depending who the highest bidder is.”
He said a “telling” moment in deliberations on the bill was when the House of Traditional Leaders demanded that it be amended so that an “independent authority” issues mining licences. “They said mining licences were not handed out for black economic empowerment, but rather to politically connected individuals.
“But the ANC ignored their advice,” Lorimer said.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Floyd Shivambu said in his speech it is high time that the MPRDA is passed through the necessary processes and signed into law.
Shivambu said the real reason Zuma didn’t sign the bill two years ago was because the Gupta family was against it.
“They (the Guptas) said the act won’t pass constitutional muster because they first needed to get control of the mining minister,” Shivambu said with reference to Zwane, who reportedly has a close relationship with the Guptas.
According to Shivambu, there was “nothing unconstitutional” about the previous MPRDA amendment bill, but the delay was “state capture par excellence”.
“Let’s take the opportunity to uncapture South Africa and Parliament and pass this bill,” Shivambu said.
It will now be referred to the National Council of Provinces for further deliberation.