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South African mining minister accuses chamber of blocking transformation

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South African mining minister accuses chamber of blocking transformation

South Africa's mineral resources minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, has filed an answering affidavit in the Pretoria High Court, challenging an application by the Chamber of Mines to interdict the implementation of the controversial reviewed mining charter. Among other points, Zwane's affidavit accuses the chamber of blocking "effective and meaningful participation of black persons" in the mining industry and opposing transformation.

It is the latest development in an ongoing battle between the ministry and the chamber of mines over new empowerment regulations.

In a response statement, the chamber has denied the allegations, saying the "unilaterally designed" charter will destroy investment and jobs to the benefit of "select few." "The [Department of Mineral Resources'] reviewed charter will not serve the interests of South Africa," the chamber reiterated in an Aug. 8 statement.

It also criticized the "aggressive nature" of the minister's statement, which it said "makes judgments that are properly the province of the High Court."

The growing tensions between the two parties come amid increasing political uncertainty both for the country's mining industry and its economy at large as President Jacob Zuma faces a vote of no-confidence that could bring his eight-year reign to an end.

Zuma's presidency has been shaken by a string of corruption scandals amid close relationships with the wealthy Gupta family.

In a new twist, media reports on Aug. 8 stated that Zwane's future could be on the line in the context of the parliament's vote on Zuma's political leadership.

He allegedly pledged to remove Zwane and other ministers from their positions in a wider cabinet shakeup if he survives the critical vote, fin24 reported, citing two officials with knowledge of the matter.

A dismissal of Zwane, who himself has been linked to the Gupta clan, has been seen as a strategic move for Zuma to silence his critics, which have increasingly picked up on ongoing tensions between Zwane and the mining industry.

A court hearing for the case was initially scheduled for July 18 but was postponed and due for rescheduling to a date in September after the Department of Mineral Resources suspended the implementation of the reviewed mining charter, pending court judgment.

Zwane's answering affidavit was initially due July 31 but filed a week later due to travel for a bilateral visit on the continent, according to the Aug. 7 statement.