TOKYO, June 2013 – South African President Jacob Zuma called Tuesday for dialogue in his country’s troubled mining sector the day after a union leader was shot dead following a series of strikes.
The industry, which brings in around 60 percent of export earnings and accounts for a fifth of Africa’s largest economy, has seen a rash of wildcat strikes sparked by wage demands and union rivalries.
“All stakeholders, government, management in the mining sector, trade union movement in particular should talk and find a way to deal with this matter,” Zuma told a news conference in Tokyo.
“We think we have the capacity to in fact discuss and agree,” said the South African president.
“When the (global) economic meltdown began in 2008, we met social partners and actually agreed how to respond to that situation,” he said. “I think South African stakeholders have to respond in that way.”
Zuma remarks came the day after one union leader was shot dead and another was wounded at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine.
The shootings at the mine near Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, occurred in the same community where police trying to contain a violent strike shot dead at least 34 miners last August in what they claimed was self-defence.
Key labour leaders have also been killed amid a fierce battle between the National Union of Mineworkers and its rival the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union for members and bargaining rights in the world’s top platinum-producing region.
Mines are the country’s largest private-sector employer, and their unionised workforce is a large source of votes for the country’s ruling African National Congress.
Last week Zuma also called for calm in the mining sector after economic growth hit a fresh low of 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
In the wake of strikes at Anglo American Platinum to protest against restructuring layoffs, he urged workers and mine managers to resolve their disputes without violence or stoppages.
Zuma, who attended a major development conference for Africa in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo, was to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Tuesday afternoon before wrapping up his visit on Wednesday.