Barely 17 days into the new year and an increasingly fragile South African economy finds itself under siege due to imminent in strike action, particularly in the mining sector.
According to media reports, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it would continue strike action at Northam's Zondereinde mine and the Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union (AMCU) signalled its intention to down tools across the platinum sector next week.
In June last year, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was charged with leading a task team consisting of the Ministers of Finance' Mineral Resources and Labour to engage various role players in mining in order to stabilise the industry.
Even though the subsequent agreement failed to receive resounding support from AMCU, government was at least seen to be taking an active role in attempting to stabilize the industry through facilitative discussion.
However, since then, the Deputy President's Task Team has gone silent and would appear to be wringing its hands while labour unrest threatens to destabilise the mining sector.
Worse still, Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, remains resolutely silent on the issue.
This cannot continue. The DA will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Labour, Mamagase Elleck Nchabeleng, requesting that Deputy President Motlanthe's Task Team be summoned to Parliament to provide an update on its work.
The right to strike is enshrined in the Constitution and labour legislation. Workers are therefore more than entitled to engage in strike action where necessary.
However, any further labour unrest, particularly in mining, could in the long run have a negative impact on job creation in the sector, and compromise those currently employed.
Deputy President Motlanthe's Task Team appears to have all but given up on the mining sector. According to the South African Chamber of Mines, 524 632 people are currently employed in the sector. Continued instability within the sector threatens productivity and future job growth.
Giving up is not an option if we are to protect current jobs and create new ones.
- Kenneth Mubu, Shadow Minister of Labour