Mining Lekgotla 2013
Sandton Convention Centre
27 – 29 August 2013
Address by Mrs Daphne Mashile-Nkosi.
Warm greetings to you all!
Thank you for inviting me.
We have gathered at this Mining Lekgotla among other things to share ideas
and experiences regarding the role of Women in Mining.
It is indeed an opportune time to do this given that the month of August is
dedicated to the women of our country in recognition of their selfless
contribution towards its liberation.
So let me start by wishing all the women of this country a Happy Women’s
Month, even as we are coming to the end of the Month.
It is important to indicate that the Women in Mining initiative owes its existence
to the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality of 1994.
The Charter stipulated that, “There shall be no categorisation of jobs on the
basis of gender, nor shall gender stereotypes determine the work that women
It is consequently against this backdrop that we now have events such as those
focused on Women in Mining.
The 1994 Charter went on to state that, “Economic policy must secure women’s
place in the economy.”
In other words, the economic policy of our country must seek to bring about
women’s economic empowerment – which refers to our capacity to bring about
economic change for ourselves and society as a whole.
Securing women’s place in the economy in general and mining in particular
requires that the role of women should not be confined to the skills and training
they receive within the sector, but should go far beyond that to the actual
ownership of mining assets.
I am convinced that those of us who claim to be progressive would advocate
having every nook and cranny of the extractive industries boasting the real
involvement of a critical mass of women – and this should be throughout the
entire mining value chain.
I would like to add to what I have said that one of the central pillars of the
struggle for a democratic South Africa was gender equality and therefore the
empowerment and emancipation of women.
Among other things, this was because the liberation movement understood that
we could not be a truly democratic country without gender equality. Neither
would we succeed to eradicate poverty and inequality in our country without
the empowerment and emancipation of women.
It is therefore logical that we would expect that the democratic State that
emerged after the defeat of the apartheid system would indeed take all
measures to accomplish the important objectives of gender equality and
therefore the empowerment and emancipation of women.
However, based on my recent experience in getting funding to ensure that our
place as women in the economy is secured, suffice it to say that we still have a
long way to go.
Despite the avalanche of messages communicated in different fora which have
stressed that the economic empowerment of women is a prerequisite for
sustainable development, pro-poor growth and the achievement of all the
Millennium Development Goals, women still continue to experience serious
barriers in almost every respect.
Be that as it may, we should draw strength from women who fought similar
battles of changing the status quo during their time, relating to gender equality.
One such woman was the 19th
century Bulgarian pioneer of the study of
Radioactivity and the founder of Experimental Nuclear Physics Research in
Bulgaria, Professor Elisaveta Kara-Michailova.
In her autobiography, she recounts how difficult, at some point, it was for
women to obtain higher education, at least in Europe.
She said, and I quote:
“At the turn of the 19th century, the prevailing public opinion did not tolerate
the desire of girls to enter colleges or universities, but rather opposed such a
“This means that those girls who entered university were self-motivated to
challenge the moral code of the society they lived in and courageous enough to
break the society’s good manners.”
Challenge with Funding
We too need to be self-motivated to challenge the moral code of our society
and courageous enough to break our society’s “good” manners, however “good”
these may seem to be.
One of the moral codes of our society and “good” manners that need to be
challenged pertains to women’s access to funding of mining projects from
financial institutions in South Africa, including the State Development Finance
In this regard it should be borne in mind that mining is a capital intensive
sector, and therefore requires substantial funding.
As I have said, my experience in trying to acquire funding in our country has
taught me that the lines seem to be blurred between the roles of the State
Development Finance Institutions on the one hand, and conventional funding
institutions such as commercial banks on the other hand.
There seems to be a deficit in understanding the significance of the economic
empowerment of women and its benefits.
It is my understanding that commercial banks, by their very nature, are driven
by profit-making and are thoroughly averse to risk.
So, in making investment decisions, they assess projects based on risk and
return, their ability to service debt within the specified tenure, and make no
reference to the importance of those projects in contributing to the
development of the country and achieving important national policy objectives.
This is understandable in light of their business model.
However, this creates distortions in the market with regard to the availability of
capital to fund projects that are deemed to be too risky by commercial banks,
irrespective of whether such projects are of strategic importance to the
development of the country.
It is these market distortions that the State Development Finance Institutions
were meant to correct, especially given the commitment of the democratic
post-apartheid State to gender equality and the empowerment and
emancipation of women to which I have referred.
The State Development Finance Institutions are supposed and empowered to:
help our country to reach a higher and sustainable level of development;
finance high priority investment projects in a developing economy;
identify and develop strategic and longer-term-profitable sectors; and
address capital market inefficiencies which arise when private capital is
unwilling to lend or bear the risk, among other things.
Contrary to all these, it does seem to me that our State Development Finance
Institutions are using the same risk matrices as the commercial banks.
This undermines the achievement of the objectives of both the State and the
private sectors to help our country to reach higher and sustainable levels of
economic growth, development, and the eradication of poverty and inequality.
Related to the point above, it also seems to me that our State Development
Finance Institutions are doing very little to address capital market inefficiencies
which arise when private capital is unwilling to lend or bear the necessary risk.
I am afraid that in this regard the State DFIs seem to have joined forces with
the private financial institutions in terms of considering investment in women,
certainly in mining, as being too risky.
Part of what is also worrying to me is that our State DFIs seem to recruit
professionals who come from the commercial banks, with no development
These same professionals are then tasked with making decisions that are
supposed to represent the very essence of our country’s development agenda.
Lastly, it also seems to me that our State DFIs are doing very little to identify
and vigorously develop strategic and longer-term-profitable sectors, of which
mining forms a significant part.
I mention these things with a sense of frustration given the challenges of
unemployment that continue to ravage our country and low investment in the
productive sectors of our economy.
I am also contesting the sluggish pace at which our State DFIs have moved
since the advent of democracy.
In this context I must mention that buried deep in the National Development
Plan, in its Chapter Three, we find this suggestion, that with regard to “Access
to debt and equity finance”, the Government should:
“urgently consider measures to reform the mandates and operations of
development finance institutions in line with initiatives already being
undertaken, and upgrade the skills of those providing business advice and
Whatever was intended in this regard, this means that as at the moment of the
publication of the Plan, the work to reform the mandates and operations of the
State DFIs had not been done.
I sincerely hope that when our Government embarks on this important work,
assuming that it has not done so already, it will consult all of us, especially the
women, including those involved in mining, who should be among the main
beneficiaries of the operations of the State DFIs.
With regard to everything I have said, I would like to emphasise that with
regard to the critical challenge of access to credit, our hope as Women in
Mining is that the State DFIs will live up to their responsibilities, which is the
only way to ensure the required “buy-in” of the private sector financial
institutions with their considerable financial resources.
I wish to emphasise in similar vein as the OECD that:
equitable and preferential access to assets and services such as
innovation and credit, banking and financial services needs to be fast-
tracked in order strengthen women’s rights and promote economic
innovative approaches and partnerships are needed to scale up women’s
economic empowerment; and,
a holistic approach and long-term commitment from all development
actors is required in order to secure women’s place in the economy and
bring about the economic empowerment of South African women. This
should be done both by women for women and by society as a whole.
During earlier years of our democracy, all public and private stakeholders in our
country’s mining sector agreed that this sector was and is a “sunrise” rather
than a “sunset” industry.
I still believe that this is correct. In addition, the fact is that mining occupies a
very important place in the South African economy, and will continue to do so
for many years to come.
For these reasons, and given its history in the economic development of our
country, it provides a very natural focus for the concentrated and sustained
implementation of the transformation policies and programmes of democratic
South Africa, including women’s empowerment, and the eradication of poverty
and racial and gender inequality.
Since mining will continue to play a critical role in the development of our
country; since there is a need to level the playing field to enable new players in
mining to succeed and thrive; since the current levels of unemployment have
reached horrendous proportions; and if we believe that women have an
important role to play in advancing the agenda of development in South Africa,
then we should back this up through our actions.
The economic empowerment of South African women, and its strategic social
consequences with regard to the absolute imperative to eradicate poverty and
inequality in our country, will remain a dream deferred if our actions are not
consistent with our pronouncements.
Surely, one of the real outcomes of this important Mining Lekgotla must be a
definitive statement, shared by all stakeholders, including Government, which
helps practically to advance the effective participation of Women in Mining.