The empowerment deal at Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC) seems to be unravelling rapidly as consortium partners disagree on how best to manage of the company. This became clear in Parliament this week when Mr Fred Arendse the Chief Executive of Maweni Mining Corporation (MMC), a black economic empowerment component of the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC), denied allegations that MMC was "nothing but a fronting company."
The coal mining company ZAC was briefing the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources this week on its operations and compliance with the mining charter. The briefing session was a follow up after the Committee's oversight visit last year to investigate mining companies in KwaZulu-Natal.
"I appeal to the reason of this Committee to critically look into what has been going on," Mr Arendse said. "We are a business, not a 'rent-a-darkie' fronting company: we need to operate as a business and ask the difficult questions. And when we ask these questions we become isolated, intimidated and on many occasions victimised," he added.
During the meeting MMC representatives said they were informed by ZAC management that they could not be part of the Committee meeting. This decision by ZAC management to sideline MMC was said to have arisen after two representatives on the board of the majority company (ZAC) were withdrawn.
At the meeting the two companies presented what appeared to be "a marriage that was heading towards a divorce," according to Mr Arendse.
Chairperson of the Committee Mr Fred Gona said it was important that MMC be given an opportunity to plead its case.
"Members of Parliament are public representatives therefore the MMC needs to make its presentation," he said.The allegations being made by MMC before the Committee were a serious transgression by the majority shareholder.
"I hope that you take note of what is said. If they (MMC) are useless and not operating in the necessary space, then to us that does not (constitute) a BEE partner," he added.
According to a report, mineworkers at the colliery in January rejected the company's offer of a R10m remuneration bonus as they were suspicious about funds apparently missing from their employee trust fund and the conditions of the windfall, which they saw as "signing their lives away".
ZAC, which is majority owned by Rio Tinto through Australian-based Riversdale Holdings, agreed to pay close to R10m to its employees through the ZAC Employee Trust in order to address concerns over the missing funds.