JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Work stoppages on platinum and gold mines had caused a loss of production of R4.5-billion in the last nine months, President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.
Addressing the national conference of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions, Zuma said that work stoppages in the coal sector added another R118-million loss and close to R3.1-billion had also been subtracted from the national fiscus.
Moreover, the negative impact had extended beyond the mining sector to the manufacturing sector, especially the fabricated metal products sector, which was already showing signs of strain.
“We cannot afford to go into a recession, and revert to the 2008 and 2009 period where the country lost close to a million jobs,” Zuma added.
He wished the employers and workers well as they sought to end the wage impasse and pledged the Ministry of Labour’s support in the negotiations.
He reiterated government’s call to employers to implement the provisions of the Mining Charter, which, he said, took into account the country’s particular history as a people emerging from colonial oppression and apartheid.
Mining’s own unfortunate worker treatment over more than 100 years had added to the need for charter implementation, which required companies to improve living conditions and invest in skills development, employment equity and community development.
It also obliged employers to convert single sex hostels into family units or single occupancy accommodation and to facilitate home ownership by 2014.
He applauded the 50% of companies that had humanised worker living conditions so far and admitted that the situation was complex, as some workers had opted for living-out allowances and did not want to use the improved mine accommodation, which had undermined the campaign for better living conditions by fostering the development of informal settlements.
As it was clear that the mining sector needed a lot of discussion, a decision had been taken to place it on the agenda of the upcoming African National Congress (ANC) national elective conference in Mangaung in December.
Meanwhile, the Marikana protests should not deflect attention away from the progress that had been made in transforming the country since 1994.
“We should not listen to those who are making a career out of rubbishing our country and the gains of our national democratic revolution,” he said, adding that the ANC government had succeeded in significantly reducing the number of people experiencing the worst levels of income poverty.
However, socioeconomic inequalities had come into sharp focus in Marikana, where 45 people had lost their lives.
Condolences had been extended to the families of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) shop stewards brutally killed during the first week of the illegal strike.
Another NUM shop steward, Dumisani Mthinti, was, he added, tragically hacked to death in Marikana last week.
Worker rights were enshrined in the Constitution, legislation gave effect to its provisions and employers and employees had the mechanisms in place to manage workplace relations, with no need to resort to violence.
While the Judicial Commission of Enquiry would establish what had happened in Marikana, there were a few immediate lessons.
Firstly, a way to restore workplace stability and labour peace had to be found and violence could not become a labour relations culture.
Workers and employers needed to use the laws, which clearly spelled out legitimate dispute resolution, which did not take away the rights of miners and residents to protest, peacefully and unarmed.
The President appealed to some political party leaders in the country who had been vocal to desist from the irresponsible language of comparing the Marikana law enforcement campaign to apartheid-era measures, which they knew to be untrue.
“They are unashamedly using a tragedy to score political points instead of putting the interests of the workers and the country first.
“We also wish to urge the workers and their employers to find solutions to the dispute without further delay, given its ongoing impact on the economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, South Africa had achieved a target of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to reduce those living on less than one US dollar a day.
More than 15-million people were now receiving social grants and progress had also been made in the fight against HIV/Aids and tuberculosis, for which 1.7-million people were now on treatment, an increase of 1.1-million from the 600 000 of 2009, with the rate of mother-to-child transmission dropping to 2.7% from 8% in 2008.
More than 95% of children had access to basic education, which put the country close to meeting the universal goal.