South Africa desperately needs new leadership – Sibanye CEO

Neal Froneman

Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman said South Africa desperately needs new leadership, whether that is within the ANC or another political party.

Speaking to CNBC Africa on the sidelines of the 2024 Mining Indaba, Froneman identified the key issues holding South Africa’s economy back.

Froneman listed energy, logistics, crime and corruption and said the reason they have become critical comes down to the country’s leadership.

“I’m very disillusioned with the leadership of this country, which has resulted in these things that we now have to fix,” he said.

While these issues are slowly being addressed, “we’re just treating the symptoms – not the cause”.

“I just hope South Africans will apply their minds. There is no obvious solution, but we desperately need new leadership,” he said.

Despite his frustrations, Froneman said the public-private workstreams set up last year are progressing.

In June 2023, President Cyril Ramaphosa met with South African business leaders “to discuss ongoing interventions and collaboration between the government and the business sector to achieve inclusive growth, inspire confidence in the economy and create jobs”.

The meeting ended with businesses agreeing to collaborate with the government to tackle problems undermining the economy and its growth potential.

Three of the country’s major problems were identified as top priorities: energy, transport and logistics, and crime and corruption.

“Workstreams” were set up for each of the three issues, and around four or five interventions were identified for each.

Froneman is part of the crime and corruption workstream, which he said is finding solutions to the issue.

The CEO’s comments come as Sibanye could be cutting 4,000 jobs at its South African mines.

In October last year, Sibanye announced it would enter into Section 189 consultations to retrench over 4,000 workers amid the company’s restructuring.

The miner said above-inflation increases in key cost components such as electricity, water, wages, and fuel, combined with the decline in PGM prices, have significantly impacted the global PGM industry’s profitability, including Sibanye-Stillwater’s South African operations. 

Some of its operating shafts are loss-making and pose a risk to the sustainability of the remaining operations, and, as an alternative to closure, workforce rightsizing is needed to support the current reduced average annual production forecast.

The proposed restructuring and shaft closures could potentially affect 4,095 employees and contractors – 3,500 employees and 595 contractors – including support services employees.