Comments from Peter Leon, Partner and Africa Chair of international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, following address by Mineral, Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe at opening of Mining Indaba 2022.
9 May 2022
President Hakiainde Hichilema of Zambia blasted fresh air through the Africa Mining Indaba this morning when he delivered the speech that Minister Mantashe should have given only moments before.
Like Mantashe, President Hichilema told delegates that Zambia was open for business. However, unlike Mantashe, the President elevated the private sector as an absolutely key partner for the successful development of Zambia’s mining sector. He reiterated his government’s commitment to a transparent, predictable and fair investment climate with absolutely no tolerance for corruption. To this end, Zambia is currently fixing its mineral licensing system, and has placed a temporary moratorium on the issuing of licences to expedite this process. He made it clear that the time for talk by African leaders about the continent’s potential was over, and that the time for delivery was now.
Given Zambia’s history, he also made the remarkable statement that there will be no resource nationalism in the country, but that the country will still ensure that it will support domestic economic growth and job creation. It is critical that the mining benefits the people and the country as a whole without embarking on resource nationalism, which imposes dirigiste, onerous obligations on the mining industry around ownership, procurement, and local content, which has been Zambia's experience in the past.
By contrast, there was no word from Mantashe either on South Africa’s progress in fixing its dysfunctional licensing system or to resolve the long-standing issues around the Mining Charter which remain mired in litigation and controversy.