Business, labour ‘must ensure stability’

5 October 2012

South African President Jacob Zuma has called on business and labour to work together to ensure “shop floor peace” and stability in the country.

Speaking at the annual convention of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Midrand, Johannesburg on Thursday, Zuma said there was a collective responsibility to promote economic growth and development in the country.

“We have gone through a difficult period in our country in the past few weeks with wildcat strikes, one of which tragically claimed the lives of 46 people in Marikana,” Zuma said.

Call for ‘climate of constructive social dialogue’

“We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting. We must create a climate of constructive social dialogue, which South Africans are known for.”

Zuma noted that the Constitution guaranteed the rights of both workers and employers, and wished the parties well as they negotiated solutions to both the mining and truck driver strikes.

The government would continue to provide support through the Department of Labour and its institutions, he added.

Industry transformation

The government was also mindful of its responsibilities with regards to transformation in industries such as the mining sector.

“In this regard, we are looking intensively at what we should do better to improve the implementation of the Mining Charter, beyond promoting BEE [black economic empowerment] ownership to the improvement of the living conditions of workers on the mines.

“The department of mineral resources has been directed to intensify its monitoring and evaluation work to bring the industry in line with the transformation objectives of the country.”

Zuma said that despite South Africa’s many achievements since democracy, the gap between rich and poor still remained and income inequality was still extremely high.

“Unemployment also remains a huge challenge. The situation at the bottom levels of income distribution is of great concern, as 80 percent of households have no employed people at all,” Zuma said. “It has therefore proven difficult and is taking longer to re-engineer the economy to provide opportunities for those who were pushed into impoverished and remote rural areas under apartheid.”

Negative global economic climate

He also acknowledged the negative global economic climate and the problems faced by countries that were the main importers of South Africa’s manufactured goods. Given the current the climate, it could be expected that there would be an adverse impact on the exports of manufactured goods.

“We need to work together to ensure a robust response that minimises the impact on growth overall and especially on the poor.”

Zuma stressed the importance of developing nations trading with each other, in addition to doing business with the developed world.

“We are promoting South-South economic relations effectively through forums such as India-Brazil-South Africa as well as BRICS. We should also look more within the continent, where profound change is taking place.”

‘We are all economic stakeholders’

The government would provide as much support as it could to create the right environment for business to thrive so that inequality, poverty and unemployment could be dealt with.

A prosperous and united South Africa required that everyone looked beyond their immediate interests to take actions that would build the economy and the country, he said.

“Ultimately, we are all citizens as well as economic stakeholders.”

The President said he remained optimistic about the country’s future.

“At times, the going will look tougher than we ever imagined, given the backlogs and the rising expectations of the poor … There is no reason to be despondent. We have the capacity to overcome difficulties when we work together as South Africans.”