Community trust

Ndavhe Mareda, CEO of the Makole Group, is concerned about the rising level of poverty on the African continent. ‘A mineral-rich continent such as Africa will always be on the back foot globally if we do not get a grip right now, and motivate for our leaders to engage with industry stakeholders to create a mineral bank,’ he says.

‘Weak governmental balance sheets need to be countered by strong leadership. Instead of only looking to international institutions for financial assistance and proving just how good we can be at begging, we should be debating the policies that will allow us to better leverage future borrowings off the strength of state mineral banks. We shouldn’t always have to start from a low base.’

Marenda is also cognisant that the recent spread of COVID-19 on the continent has not only exacerbated poverty, it has also highlighted ailing infrastructure and fledgling economies. ‘African governments need to grow their balance sheets without such a heavy reliance on international institutions.’

Mareda is well versed in the progression of development that leads to growth. Black Royalty Minerals, a subsidiary of the Makole Group, successfully operated Chilwavhusiku colliery, the first 100% black-owned mining operation in South Africa. Its success has morphed the company from junior-miner status to a level where it now operates in the mid-tier mining realm, and is ready to compete on equal footing with larger mining houses. The success of Chilwavhusiku colliery, along with the group’s diversification strategy, has also resulted in the acquisition of the Koornfontein coal mine in Middelburg.

‘Our formula is based on leadership – not just that of our own organisation, but in recognising the leadership of the communities in which we operate,’ says Mareda. ‘There is very little that people can tell us about our communities. We are apolitical, and that provides us with a platform to work directly with all the stakeholders in a region.

Makole Group CEO Ndavhe Mareda

‘When you decide to be more involved, it is not just about what you mine, or what your particular business activities can do to help local mining communities; you need to embrace the solving of socio-economic problems,’ he says. ‘You have to partner with local ward councillors, and engage with business and other forums to understand the needs of the local economy.

‘I like to think that we trade in business leadership, and this is where we strategise heavily. In so doing, we also contribute to the policymaking of the country.’

Mareda says that the Makole Group’s immersion in community development is at a similar level to that of major mining groups, which goes a long way in securing confidence in the organisation’s future plans.

If community-based involvement is the first priority, informing and commenting on government policy is yet another pillar of support. ‘We have to take the communities’ concerns to the government to ensure that socio-economic development is not done in isolation. We have thus commented openly and publicly about the South African government’s Integrated Resource Plan, the Mining Charter and all other aspects that may impact on the whole mining value chain, which we want to be inclusive of all people and not just communities. Mining should be owned by all,’ says Mareda.

The Makole Group understands that development leads to growth, which can – and should – benefit stakeholders across the board

‘We also speak to our peers, interacting with them so that we can provide our collective leadership in the formulation of regulations and policy decisions of the future.’

The future is also something that the Makole Group is cementing in Africa. Its first exploration in Mozambique has recently been concluded with the presentation of a geophysics report. The focus is on graphite and gold.

‘Although we will be new to mining this type of mineral, our interest is firmly driven by the energy and technology needs of the future,’ says Mareda. ‘Also, the market is almost saturated with coal; we have enough reserves, so it makes sense to move into minerals for future energy, and for which demand is steadily increasing.’

The group is investigating mineral projects in Uganda and Namibia, which at this are stage, looking promising. ‘We will be driving activities that contribute to the GDP, such as job creation. It is not simply about understanding African problems; it’s about providing solutions,’ he says. ‘We want to be part of the dissemination of information. It may be that our business grew on the back of South Africa’s infamous and unequal past, but business today is no longer for “club members” only; it is open to all that believe we each have the capacity to invoke change so that we can all be better and do better.

‘Marginalised or not, anything is possible if we are all engaged on accelerating the future of Africa.’

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