Daphne Mashile-Nkosi - Speech to mark the Launching of the Kalagadi Manganese Project

Your Excellency, President of the Republic of South Africa, Honourable Jacob Zuma,
Honourable Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms. Sylvia Lucas,
Ministers, MEC's, Mayors and other elected representatives,
Tribal Leaders,
Captains of Industry,
Kalagadi Manganese Directors,
Contractors,
Employees,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen:

I thank you most sincerely for honouring our invitation to come to this important launch of the Kalagadi Manganese Project in this part of our country, which, for years, has been subjected to the most brutal form of mineral exploitation – the Kimberley hole bears testimony to this.

In 2001, my late husband, Stanley Nqobizizwe Nkosi, and I, together with other strategic business partners made a trip to this place in search of manganese mining opportunities.

Contrary to our naïve expectations, all that embraced us and seemed to look at us with a wistful eye was the semi-arid and desolate place with patches of grass, without any glimpse of the wealth hidden beneath it.

We did not have the faintest clue about the colossal task that lay ahead of us. It is in such moments that the idiom, ignorance is bliss, becomes apposite.

Understandably, it was not possible at that time to accurately measure the challenges that we would eventually face. In retrospect, if it were possible to measure these challenges, I shudder to think what could have happened. These challenges became a cause for hope and concern, turmoil and tranquillity, adversity and triumph.

The construction of a mine, an ore preparation plant, and a sinter plant, as well as other supporting infrastructure proved to be a huge undertaking and the first of its kind in South Africa, in Africa, and probably the world, to be seized by women.

This served as a source of encouragement, knowing that the successful delivery of this project would put the women of South Africa, Africa and the world in history books.

The road we have travelled to this point has been one of the most difficult. At times, we literally had to trudge, as the incline proved too steep, muddy, and slippery – without any spark of hope in sight.

The Challenges and Our Resolve

This project commenced in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis, when the capricious financial markets were brought down to their knees, with liquidity drying up. We were also, confronted with a number of obstacles, including the lack of critical infrastructure such as electricity, water, and rail. All things considered, this made us to appreciate the challenges which most start-up companies are normally faced with, which can lead to failure.

Amidst all these challenges, one wintry morning in July 2008, I woke up to the chilling news that my husband, Stanley Nkosi, who had been with me throughout the entire journey, was no more. Time came to a grinding halt as I felt benumbed by the news of his untimely death.

In this context, common sense dictated that we quit or retreat from our original plan.

Suddenly, the stakes had become too high for this project to fail. If we decided to continue, I reasoned with myself, we would have to remove the word impossible from our lexicon.

We therefore took a counter-intuitive approach of continuing with our plan despite the challenges that stared us in the face. Guided by King Solomon, who instructed the people of his generation that:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”

The challenges we faced also assisted us to appreciate the difficulty and implications of policy implementation, and the need to have policy implementers who are cognisant of the realities on the ground. Policy implementers should play the role similar to that of midwives – they should deliver bouncing babies!

On the other hand, this project has been considered risky by some funding institutions. We wish to thank those funding institutions who believed in us and provided the necessary financial support, as well as those that have shown an interest in establishing working relations with us.

The journey to this point was not without mistakes. These were inevitable, since we were on a learning curve. Resolute as we were, we took solace in wisdom of a Chinese proverb which teaches that: “Success in the end erases all the mistakes along the way.”

We trust that the mistakes we made while learning the ropes would serve as lessons for all those who would follow on our footsteps in driving the agenda of beneficiation, transformation and women empowerment.

Beneficiation

Again, allow me to remind you ladies and gentlemen that, the economic structure of African countries was skewed with greater economic activity taking place in agriculture and mineral resource extraction with beneficiation of minerals virtually non-existent.

This project has taken the message of beneficiation seriously. None of the ore will be exported without an element of beneficiation. The extracted ore will be sintering from an ore grade of 36 percent to 46 percent, as part of our first phase of beneficiation.

The final phase, which will articulate the completeness of this project, will be the construction of a Smelter Plant in the Coega IDZ where the product will be further beneficiated to 78 percent High Carbon Ferromanganese. The cost of this final lap stands in the region of six billion rands (R6 billion).

One of the sages of ancient times said: “No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit…”

Since our hands are already on the plough, there is no turning back. The Smelter must be constructed – forward we go, backwards never.

This project resulted in about 12 500 direct and indirect jobs being created, with approximately 3 000 of these being direct.

(An August 2013 study of the Chamber of Mines of South Africa reveals that the social multiplier in mining is very significant. Given a dependency ratio of 10 to 1, this means that about 30 000 people were dependent for food on their table from the 3 000 jobs created.)

The complete development is expected to create about one thousand six hundred jobs (1 600 jobs) at full production.

South Africa remains the largest producer of chrome, manganese, platinum, and vanadium.

I believe this will continue to be the case for many years to come, given the estimates of our mineral wealth, which pointed to South Africa being the wealthiest mineral jurisdiction.

It is, therefore, quite important that enacted policies take advantage of the opportunities presented by rich mineral endowments and to overcome whatever colonial legacy.

Such policies may prove to be expensive in the short-run, but in the long-run, I am convinced that they will prove to be beneficial for all.

Concluding remarks

Today is a day of celebration.We have come here to herald a new era in the mining sector and the country as a whole.

As we launch this imposing integrated mining and beneficiation project estimated at seven billion rands (R7 billion), we are reminded that human beings can be realistic and at the same time try the impossible.

As a South African and an African woman, I can attest to the formidable and never say die spirit that this nation possesses.

Next year will mark twenty years into a democratic South Africa.

This hard-won democracy demands that the rebuilding our country and Continent should be our burden. Our moral obligation is to become agents of change on the Continent.

We are obliged to teach our nation and our children to live by the axiom, “Vuka Uzenzele,” roughly translated, it means, Do it for yourself.

In his poem, The Weaver, Benjamin Franklin, penned these immortal words:

“The dark threads are as needful

In the Weaver's skilful hand,

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned.”

These words point to the fact that every dimension of our lives – from the happy, the tragic, to the mundane – all things associated with the good and the bad are part of a beautiful and purposeful design in which no thread is wrongly woven.

In light of all that we endured, it is fitting to name the Sinter Plant and the Road that leads to this mine in memory and honour of my husband, Stanley Nqobizizwe Nkosi.

The shaft that leads to the manganese which strengthens the very steel used in construction shall be named in memory and honour of Thembeka Myedi, from Batlharos in Kuruman, who, despite her feeble health, fought for the construction of this mine to be realised. She was also passionate about the empowerment of women and in the process succumbed to diabetes.

To our government, led by the Honourable President Zuma, the Provincial and National Leadership, we thank you for the legislative framework that is sensitive to the need to change the political economy of our country.

To our funders, contractors, and staff members at Kalagadi Manganese, thank you for your patience and unwavering support amidst the dark clouds and storms of life. 


To the Tribal Leaders and the Hotazel community, this project has come to benefit you and your children. We therefore request your partnership in ensuring that this realises. Such partnership may present itself through opportunities that the communities will have to seize.

To all those who have graced us with their presence on this auspicious occasion, we say, “ukwanda kwaliwa ngumthakathi!”

Thank you for patiently indulging me!

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