The mining industry could have been twice the size it is today if it wasn’t for the uncertainty the country had experienced over the past five years, Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani said this week.

At a business conference organised by Bloomberg in Cape Town, he said that the sector was positive about the new government and the appointment of Gwede Mantashe as minister of mineral resources.

“We are in a new place and we’re very excited,” he said.

Cutifani said they were also optimistic that the change in leadership in the country would bring policy certainty and a clear long-term plan that was needed for the mining sector to survive.

Stephen Koseff, the CEO of Investec, said South Africa had come a long way since President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as the leader of the ANC in December.

However, he said that greater flexibility was required when it came to the country’s labour laws.

“We have to think of ourselves as a lucky country. We have good leadership, so we can no longer sit around and blame other people,” Koseff said.

Richard Brasher, the CEO of Pick n Pay, said that giving people jobs was easy, but making sure they had the right skills and the discipline to do the job was another story.

He said this was the major stumbling block to creating jobs, not a lack of people with tertiary education.

Various speakers at the conference criticised government’s decision to provide qualifying students with free tertiary education instead of providing them with skills training that would help people find entry-level jobs.

“It’s very positive to invest in tertiary education, but I think that, for entry-level opportunities, we’re looking for basic literacy and numeric competency,” said Brasher.

“If workers have the will, we can teach them these competencies,” Brasher concluded