The newly appointed Mining Minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, has committed himself to mediating between the striking workers and the platinum producers. The wage strike, which is now the longest in South African history at nearly eighteen weeks, is causing irreparable damage to the economy of the country. It has already resulted in a decline in the South African economy in the first quarter of the year, with the 24.7% drop in total mining output being the obvious main contributor. This is the first quarterly economic decline experienced since the recession of 2009.
The strike has reduced global platinum output by 40%, as it is affecting the world’s largest platinum producers, namely: Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin. The aforementioned companies have all attempted to resolve the issue to no avail thus far and the situation is becoming increasingly desperate. Last week another round of talks mediated by the labour court commensed and are still in progress. Even if resolved, the strike will have long-lasting effects on the mining industry and the South African economy as a whole.
Ramatlhodi, who started his political career as speechwriter for Steve Biko while the ANC was in exile and is a qualified advocate, replaces Susan Shibango as Minister of Mining. He is a staunch nationalist, who has been very vocal about South Africa’s constitution and how it is a compromise that, “empties the state,” and, “disempowers the black majority”. He was also the subject of a corruption probe in Limpopo, where he was premier between 1994 and 2004, according to the Mail and Guardian in an article in 2012. The probe was controversially shelved by the Scorpions in 2008.
Ramatlhodi stated while on Talk Radio 702 that mining companies had not done enough to, “address the well-being of workers”. He emphasised that this was particularly true with regards to the poor living conditions surrounding many mines. He also stated that the government needs to start treating AMCU with respect.
Ramatlhodi will begin with the wage strike mediations as soon as he has been briefed by his team of department officials. He says this will give him an idea of which issues have been discussed and the progress made thus far with respect to the different issues.
Thus far, the strike has cost the producers upwards of R20 billion in revenue and the employees more than R9 billion in wages.