Motlanthe: Mining is critical to SA economy

Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the Chatham House, London, England

 Our aim is to share with you a better understanding of current socio-economic conditions shaping the contours of democratic South Africa today.

I will focus my remarks on mining, given its centrality in South Africa’s socio-economic development.

That the mining sector has over the past century played a key role in South Africa’s economic development is a matter of record.

The sector accounts for roughly one-third of the market capitalisation of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Mining industry is a critical earner of foreign exchange and makes up 40 percent of South Africa’s export basket. Its linkages with the manufacturing and services sector are strong and have provided us with excellent opportunities to export mining equipment and mining related services to various jurisdictions.

Mines employ 2.9 percent of South Africa’s economically active population, which translates to more than half a million direct jobs.

Since the onset of the global financial crisis, the global economy has been going through challenging times and the global mining sector has not been immune to these problems.

More recently slowing growth in China, the decline in commodity prices as well as domestic work stoppages have resulted in lower growth for South African mines.

The Government of South Africa is determined to do everything possible to strengthen this sector in these difficult global economic conditions.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

South Africa’s deeply entrenched history of dialogue to resolve social conflict is well-known. Social dialogue has over the years enabled us to mobilise a broad section of society under the rubric of conflict resolution and reconciliation, invariably impelled by the fact of our indissoluble future as a nation.

We have addressed many other intractable conflicts in our country through this time-tested mechanism. Not only that, social dialogue has found constitutional expression in a number of institutions that have stood us in good stead since the birth of democracy.

These include the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and numerous other institutions supporting our system of constitutional democracy.

Consistent with this approach, government, organised labour and business signed the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry to ensure sustainability of the mining sector for the future of South Africa’s economy.

The parties to this framework agreement committed themselves to improving processes and procedures as well as implementing new measures that will bring about lasting change, while working together to sustain and improve the sector.

In terms of the Framework Agreement, Government, organised labour and organised business made a firm commitment to work together to restore peace and stability in the mines.  Our collective understanding of The Framework Agreement is as follows:

· An important step towards strengthening and stabilising the mining sector is ensuring that peace and stability prevail so as to create an environment conducive to development;

· Workers and managers must go to work without fear that anyone would harm them.  Workers must be free to exercise their Constitutional right to join any trade union of their choice, to declare disputes, to strike and to engage in any form of peaceful protest;

· Both workers and employers must ensure that all matters pertaining to labour relations including union recognition agreements, verification of membership and wage negotiations are conducted within the Labour Relations Act, which lays the primary foundation for labour relations in South Africa;

· Government will act decisively to enforce the rule of law, maintain peace during strikes and other protests relating to labour disputes and ensure protection of life, property and the advancement of the rights of all;

· In this regard, the Minister of Police on Wednesday 14 August 2013 launched the Mine Crime Combatting Forum, which will see mining companies, trade unions and mining communities working with the South African Police Services to maintain peace and stability in the mines and surrounding communities; and lastly,

· Government will ensure that law enforcement agencies act in a manner that is fair, impartial and objective.

There is an emergent appreciation that stakeholders in the mining sector must build a relationship that is based on trust and respect and avoid any actions that adversely affect this relationship.

This appreciation is driving all role-players (government, labour and business) in the mining sector to find ways to stabilise the sector and advance the South African economy.

Each partner brings unique insights, understandings and inputs to the table which augurs well for finding practical and sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the sector.

Under current socio-economic conditions, we are determined as a nation to use social dialogue and an all-inclusive approach to set our economy, and in particular, mining, onto a sure footing that leads to sustainable growth and development.


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