JOHANNESBURG – Ben Magara, Zimbabwe’s mining expert famed for business turnarounds has taken yet another South African mining company from a loss-making position, pulling Lonmin, the World’s third largest platinum producer from a R14,5b loss in 2017 to R1,4b profit in 2018.
The achievement has been described by many world mining experts as remarkable.
The Bikita-born Magara whose name features prominently each time the revival of Zimbabwe’s ailing mining sector is discussed took over as Lonmin Chief Executive Officer in 2013 when the mine was at the brink of closure with a debilitating cash crisis and hostile labour relations that saw Police shoot 34 mineworkers at Marikana.
Magara who worked for Hwange Colliery before he left for South Africa immediately embarked on a belt-tightening exercise and introduced a turnaround strategy in 2015 after receiving $400m from shareholders.
Some of Magara’s key strategies as a successful manager are engagement and being exemplary. He speaks seven regional languages and to smoother the hostile management- worker relationships, he went underground daily and joined workers on the mine face and conversed with them in their mother languages.
He also engages Government Chiefs and commities for the succces of the company.
Magara refused bonuses and salary increases for three years.
When asked for an interview, Magara said he could not speak to The Mirror because he was travelling. However, analysts said although chances that he may come back home to help the local mining industry regain its past glory are slim, the Government could use him to find serious investors.
The Lonmin turnaround is the second such major success by Magara.
Between 2002 and 2004 he improved production at Denmark, a coal mine owned by Anglo American Corporation by a remarkable 30% while safety improved by 90%.
Lonmin has 33 000 employees.
Magara told BR Business, a South African newspaper soon after the announcement of the financial results that his company posted a strong performance across the business following an aggressive cost-cutting exercise.
He also attributed the results to strict management of controllable factors and improving efficiencies.
“This performance has been achieved by our continuous focus and strict management of controllable factors, cutting costs and driving efficiencies wherever possible, and despite business fundamentals remaining challenging throughout the year,” said Magara.
The turnaround plan included the retrenchment of 8 000. workers The company also relocated its headoffice from Melrose Arch to Marikana.