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The Mining Charter

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Background to the Mining Charter:

In July 2002, a proposed Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining Industry was leaked to the media. The Charter aimed to expand the opportunities for black South African companies in an industry dominated by massive white-owned corporations. The key proposal was that at least 51% of industry assets should be transferred to black companies within 10 years.

SAMP was particularly interested in the proposals of the Charter for reform of the migrant labour and hostel systems on the mines. In Section 4.3 of the proposed charter, government and the industry would undertake to:

The publication of the proposed Charter created an uproar, with the Chamber of Mines and companies such as Anglo American condemning the black ownership proposals and timetable. South African mining shares went into a tailspin on local and international markets. President Mbeki rushed to assure investors that the government had no intention of nationalizing the mines. In the furor over the ownership proposals, little public attention was paid to Section 4.3.

In early October 2002, after intensive negotiations, a revised Charter was approved. The empowerment compromise would see 26% black company ownership within 10 years. Both sides declared the new document a "satisfactory compromise." The question is whether Sections 4.3 and 4.4 of the original Charter survived the process. The disappointing answer is that they did not.

Section 4.3 now reads simply:

The evokes a strong sense of déjà vu. The Presidential National Labour Market Commission of 1996 proposed a series of reforms which were never acted upon. The Green Paper on International Migration 1997 proposed similar reforms which were then dropped in the White Paper on International Migration 1999 and the Immigration Act of 2002.

In other words, the status quo will remain and the prospect of a fundamental revisiting of the migrant labour system has again fallen off the table, presumably at the insistence of the mining companies.


Proposed Broad-Based Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining Industry, 18 June 2002.

Proposed Broad-Based Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining Industry, 9 October 2002.

Media Coverage of Empowerment Charter Debate


Jonathan Crush, Alan Jeeves and David Yudelman, South African LaborEmpire: A History of Black Migrancy to the God Mines (Cape Town, 1992).

Jonathan Crush and Wilmot James, eds., Crossing Boundaries: Mine Migrancy in a Democratic South Africa (Cape Town, 1995).

National Labour Market Commission Report, Chapter 9.

Green Paper on International Migration, Chapter 2.

Jonathan Crush, Theresa Ulicki, Tke Tseane and Elizabeth Jansen van Vuuren, Undermining Labour: Migrancy and Sub-Contracting in theSouth African Gold Mining Industry, SAMP Migration Policy Series No.15 (Cape Town, 1999)

Jonathan Crush and Clarence Tshitereke, "Contesting Migrancy: The Foreign Labour Debate in Post-1994 South Africa" Africa Today 48(3) (2001): 49-72.

Updated 20 May 2004.