Ongoing investigations by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have revealed that, despite assurances to the contrary by Premier Sihle Zikalala, Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) is preparing to start shutting down the second of its four furnaces.
The finding comes as the province continues to reel from recent unrest and its economy teeters closer to the edge with no resolution in sight for KZN’s largest taxpayer – namely RBM.
Despite its assurances that RBM operations will resume, the provincial government is yet to meet all of the conditions that will trigger the mine’s reopening. These include major security concerns and a normalization in relations between government, the mine and local communities.
Instead, as per the norm, the Premier and KZN’s Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) officials continue to sugar-coat the dire reality that exists at RBM.
This was evidenced during an EDTEA portfolio committee last Friday where members were assured of the constant protection and guarding of RBM and were also told that operations were about to resume. Meanwhile, well-placed sources reveal the mine has enjoyed little to no protection from the SAPS or SANDF and that feed for the furnaces are critically low.
Rather than be upfront about the potential devastation of the Richard’s Bay economy, this ANC government has again opted to spin the public an optimistic story and hope it sticks. Meanwhile, the Premier must account for his statement on 8 July indicating RBM would open the following Monday.
Recent looting, unrest and political interference in big business has been the hallmark of the ANC government and may now lead to another 5 000 job losses and dozens of businesses closing, should RBM falter.
Instead of constant race-based banter about “settlers and colonists” from ANC members in the EDTEA portfolio, the party should focus on regaining control of its radical members and the building of investor confidence.
The DA has for years highlighted the importance of the basics that business needs in order to thrive. These include government providing the fundamentals of steady water and electricity supply, and a stable and safe province that promotes investment.
Sustainable and lasting solutions are now needed to help save the KZN economy that has suffered at least R40 billion in damage along with numerous lost work hours and tax revenue.
The DA will continue to call out the ANC for its ongoing inability to keep a firm hold on its members who are at the heart of the recent insurrection and the destruction of the economy.