The South African government is determined to resolve the challenges currently facing the country's mining sector, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told a high-profile gathering of UK government and industry representatives in London on Tuesday.
South Africa's mining industry has been hit by a spate of industrial action since last year, leading to a drop in production. More recently, slowing growth in China, the global decline in commodity prices as well as domestic work stoppages have resulted in lower growth for the country's mines.
"The government of South Africa is determined to do everything possible to strengthen this sector in these difficult global economic conditions," Motlanthe told the gathering at Chatham House.
Motlanthe, accompanied by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim, is on an official visit to the UK promote trade and investment, particularly in South Africa's mining sector.
He told Tuesday's gathering that South Africa's "deeply entrenched" history of dialogue to resolve social conflict was 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," Motlanthe said. "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."
South Africa's dialogue platforms included the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
In July, the government, mining companies and organised labour (with exception of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) signed a framework agreement that provides the basis for cooperation to stabilise the mining sector and set it on a sustainable footing.
The parties to the agreement committed themselves to improving processes and procedures as well as implementing new measures to bring about lasting change, while working together to sustain and improve the sector.
The parties also made a firm commitment to work together to restore peace and stability on the country's mines. Motlanthe said this was crucial for creating an environment conducive to growth and development.
Workers and managers needed to be able to go to work without fear of harm, Motlanthe said. Workers also had to be free to exercise their constitutional right to join the trade union of their choice, to declare disputes, to strike and to engage in peaceful protest.
Both workers and employers had to ensure that all matters pertaining to labour relations, including union recognition, verification of membership and wage negotiations, were conducted in line with the Labour Relations Act, which provided the primary foundation for labour relations in South Africa.
Motlanthe said the government would act decisively to enforce the rule of law, maintain peace during strikes and other protests relating to labour disputes, and ensure the protection of life, property and the advancement of the rights of all.
The government would further ensure that the country's law enforcement agencies acted in a manner that was fair, impartial and objective.
There was an emergent appreciation, he said, that the stakeholders in the mining sector had to build relationships based on trust and respect and avoid actions that adversely affected this relationship.