Black History Month Focus Month Human Rights

Celebrating a Salient Revolution – Towards Black Economic Empowerment in South African Mining Law

yellow and white excavator on rocky mountain during daytime
Source: Artyom Korshunov (2020)

ANAYLSIS Ange Dorine Irakoze 28 February 2022

The month of February is devoted to celebration of Black men and women who brawled for civil rights to establish social justice and fight against apartheid. In the course of the apartheid era, the South African mining industry was under control of white people ‘conglomerates since the discovery of the Eureka diamond by Erasmus Stephanus Jacobs in Hopetown in 1867.[1] Legislation such as the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act, 1973[2] was a demonstration of discrimination against Black people by a minority of white individuals. Indeed, the latter were exploiting mining resources at the expense of Black people, consigned to dusty and dangerous mining activities.

When South Africa became a democratic State in 1994, it was more important than ever to exercise State’s sovereignty over mining resources.[3] In this course, the State also faced the urgency to resolve the inequalities against Black people embedded in the mining industry legislation. It is in this context that the State embarked into the process of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE)[4] with the main goal of increasing share ownership of Black people within significant mining companies that lead the South African economy.

Broad-based Black economic empowerment agenda

The inclusion of South African Black people in significant sectors of the economy of the country was the ultimate goal of the African National Congress (ANC) when it seized power in April 1994.[5] To begin with, the empowerment evolved through ownership deals to ascertain equity into workplace, recognition of basic labor rights and encouragement of Black people skills through amendment of existing apartheid legislation, however this addressed only one part of the issues at hand.[6] 

In addition, the determination of the country’s leaders to enable Black people’s participation led to the enactment of Broad-Based Black People Empowerment (BBBEE) legal framework.[7] The objective of the BBBEE was to fill the gaps of formal and substantive inequality in order to enable Black people also to benefit from the country’s economic development.

BBBEE into mining laws

The BBBEE actions spread into the mining industry in order to reverse the history of a few white conglomerates dominance on mining assets, established since the industry’s revolution in the 1880s. To complement the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), the BBBEE blueprint was established through the enactment of the BBBEE Charter on Mining and Minerals industry, so-called Original Mining Charter in 2004[8] and amended in 2010.[9] The Original Mining Charter declared that white-owned and foreign-owned multinationals shall transfer 26 % of the value of equity ownership[10] and assure historically disadvantaged persons (HDSAs) to acquire mine assets, which was to be attained by 2014. Through a review in 2018,[11] the ownership shares were requested to attain a minimum of 30% HDSA shareholding including economic interest and the voting rights that are proportional to the mining rights.[12] These requirements reflect the BBBEE policy that pursued Black people adhesion and participation into the mining industry of South Africa, succeeding their exclusions under apartheid laws. 

The Black history month is a good opportunity to celebrate the important process of embedding the BBBEE into the Mining charter in order to reverse mining ownership industry that were one-sided during the apartheid era and mainly for the benefit of the white individuals. This milestone in the history of South Africa’s mining industry paved the way to the continuous effort to empower historically disadvantaged South Africans in important sectors.

[1] Viljoen M. J., Viljoen, R.P., ‘Alluvial Diamonds in South Africa’ (2006) 67 JGSI (3), pp. 404-406.

[2] Occupational Diseases in Mines and works Act, 1973.

[3]Kilambo Sixta R., 2021,’Black economic empowerment policy and the transfer of equity and mine assets to Black people in the South Africa’s mining industry’ (2021) 24 SAJEMS (1), 2.

[4] Makgoba Metji, ‘Constructing the Symbolic Agendas of Political and Structural Transformation with the Discourse of Black Economic Empowerment in South Africa’ (2021) 80 African Studies (3-4), pp 335-356.

[5] ibid, para 3.

[6] Dreyer, Jan A., Suzette Viviers, and Nadia Mans-Kemp, ‘Reflecting on compliance with Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment codes of good practice: Trends and suggestions’ (2021) 52 S. Afr. J. Bus. Manag. (1), 3.

[7] ibid, para 6.

[8] Broad-Based Black Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining and Minerals Industry,2004

[9] Broad-Based Black Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining and Minerals Industry, 2010.

[10] ibid, para 8.

[11] Broad-Based Black Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining and Minerals Industry, 2018.

[12] ibid, para10.


By Ange-Dorine Irakoze

Ange-Dorine Irakoze is a PhD Candidate at the Chair of African Legal Studies Bayreuth.

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