- Sibanye CEO, Neal Froneman, says the July unrest was not unexpected.
- The company has been warning about community unrest for a long time, and he says confidence in government “to do the right things” is low.
- “What is becoming very clear to us is that civil society is beginning to trust business much more than they trust government leadership,” he added.
Neal Froneman, the Chief Executive of Sibanye-Stillwater, says there is little confidence in the South African government “to do the right things” – with civil society developing greater trust in businesses than in the state.
While the company’s mining operations escaped the deadly anarchy that shut and destroyed businesses in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, Froneman said the unrest was not unexpected, as the company had often flagged issues around community violence as an area of concern.
As the miner presented its interim financial results on Thursday afternoon, which showed that it had sailed through the Covid-19 storm to achieve strong production and financial performance, the top executive stated that conditions on the ground were not rosy.
“The events of the last few weeks were actually not unexpected… but I was unhappy that the risk eventually arose,” Froneman said as he fielded questions from analysts and shareholders from around the world.
Sibanye, which is one of the top mining companies in the country, paid royalties and taxes of R10.3 billion in the first half of 2021, a welcome contribution to a fiscus currently battling severe social and economic challenges.
Not overly confident
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Froneman said that confidence in government “to do the right things” was low, although as business they continued to engage the leaders of the country on areas of concern.
He also mentioned that although there had been good reforms coming through, such green shoots were not backed up by action.
“I do think they [government] are listening more than they ever listened before… but I wouldn’t be overly confident that there is dramatic change about to happen,” he said.
Before the July unrest, mining operations in South Africa were at times hit by violent community protests, as residents near operations raised their anger over a mixture of socio-economic challenges, including poor delivery of basic services and jobs. But despite the prevailing challenges, the sector remains a key lever of economic growth, and provides jobs to nearly half a million people.
“What is becoming very clear to us is that civil society is beginning to trust business much more than they trust government leadership,” said Froneman adding that the shift was not only unique to South Africa, but has been seen in other parts of the world, including the US.
He also emphasised that Sibanye will continue to look after its operations to ensure that it continues operating under the current condition which he said make it easier to move to other stable jurisdictions.