Mining ‘needs new workplace relations’

28 August 2013

The government has no intention of micro-managing South Africa’s mining industry, says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. It is up to the industry itself to build the workplace relations required to bring long-term stability to the sector.

Addressing captains of industry and union leaders at the Mining Lekgotla in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Motlanthe said the industry needed to come up with practical, sustainable solutions to resolve the crisis it faced.

“Government has no intention to micro-manage mining companies,” the Deputy President said. “Save for the ever-present room for improvement, our legislative framework is sufficient for regulating the environment within which the industry operates.

“All role-players in the mining sector must engage meaningfully to build relationships based on the trust and mutual symbiosis necessary to bring stability to the sector and advance the South African economy.”

Motlanthe recently played a mediating role in getting the government, unions and mining companies to develop and sign a framework aimed at bringing sustainability to the country’s mines.

Motlanthe said the industry, which accounts for 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and generates 60% of all export revenue, needed to find new and innovative ways in order to improve production, human resource development and training.

“Mines employ 2.9% of South Africa’s economically active population, which translates into more than half-a-million direct jobs.

“To be successful at turning this industry around requires conscious effort to make structural changes to the economy and for us to become more innovative in our quest for improving productivity levels.”

He said the industry could no longer remain a prisoner of “archaic practices that have not kept up with modern productive methods.

“The hard reality is that the pattern of migrant labour super-exploitation – characterised by 12 long months with only a Christmas and Easter break – has remained unaltered in the 18 years of democracy,” Motlanthe said.

“There has been no effort to create a system that rebuilds the migrant miner’s nuclear family through short work cycles; that would ensure a re-instatement of maximum remittances home to increase cash flow to the rural poor; that would significantly reduce the propensity for HIV infections; that would enhance attendance and reduce absenteeism, driving up both productivity and ensuring that mining becomes a more attractive industry to work in and invest in.

“The democratic conditions in which the industry is now operating require that it re-skills the labour force and rewards them commensurate with their contribution,” Motlanthe said.

“To move forward, the industry must break with its undesirable past by making workers feel valued for their contribution as wholesome human beings that must have decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods, including proper housing, recreation and time with families.”