South African mines minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said Tuesday courts should decide on whether or not companies can claim they have met their required black-ownership quotas, as the government and the industry didn’t seem to have reached consensus on the matter.
The main point of contention, Reuters reports, is the fact that mining companies believe that once a firm reached a 26% black ownership it meant it effectively complied, even if some investors subsequently sold their stakes, diluting the companies’ black shareholding. The government, in turn, says companies must retain the 26% ratio specified in the Mining Charter enacted in 2004.
The rule requiring firms to sell 26% of their local assets to black South Africans by the end of 2014 was seen as a way to compensate black locals for discrimination suffered during the apartheid era. Some investors that acquired the so-called empowerment stakes at discounts subsequently sold them, diluting the companies’ black shareholding.
Ramatlhodi said that while his ministry is not at war with the companies operating in South Africa, it will bring an urgent, unopposed application to court as it wants finality on the issue by the end of April.
Who owns what
Black empowerment in South Africa has been at the centre of a recent, and heated, debate over who owns what on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
President Jacob Zuma waded into the dispute recently, saying the country’s black majority owned just 3% of the stock exchange and pledging to “de-racialize the economy”.
A 2014 report published by the Commission for Employment Equity showed 62.7% of top management positions were still held by whites, with blacks at only 19.8%.
Data from the 2011 census also indicated that the income of white South Africans was nearly six times that of blacks, who make up 80% of the population.