27 May 2014

South Africa: New Minister Appeals for End to Platinum Strike

Pretoria — New Mineral Resources Minster, Advocate Ngoako Ramathlodi, has appealed for an end to the four month strike in the platinum belt.

"I appeal to all stakeholders to assist this country to emerge from the crippling strike that is really hurting the economy and individuals involved," Minister Ramathlodi said on Monday evening, after being sworn-in to office.

Mineworkers affiliated to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) downed tools over wages at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin mines.

"Everyone would be keen to see the strike end as quickly as possible. It will be my first job tonight as I will be briefed by my Director General so that I have a sense of what are the issues that are holding the agreement back," said the minister.

Minister Ramathlodi formed part of a total 35 ministers, who were sworn in to office, following the announcement by President Jacob Zuma of his new Cabinet on Sunday evening.

The minister takes over from former minister Susan Shabangu, who has been moved to the Ministry of Women. Minister Ramathlodi takes over the portfolio at a time that the strike in the platinum belt continues.

The minister is keen to mediate in the matter.

"I'm sure we will succeed. I am aware that the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is mediating and I think we must give them the necessary support. But, for my ministry, I'll be meeting the trade unions individually, collectively [and I'll also] be meeting the mining houses as well as the traditional leaders in the areas that the mines are operating [in]," he said in a media interview following the swearing-in ceremony held at the Sefako Makgatho Guesthouse in Pretoria.

Small Business

Former International Affairs advisor Lindiwe Zulu, who was also sworn into office on Monday, is now responsible for the Ministry of Small Business Development which was announced by President Zuma on Sunday.

Speaking to SAnews, Minister Zulu said that small and medium enterprises have been recognised as an important sector for job creation and the development in the economy.

"It's about dialoguing with them to see where the challenges are [so we can] help. This is a new ministry but the sector is not new. There's a lot of work that's already being done by the Department of Trade and Industry and other departments. For us it will be about pulling out that work and seeing what has worked and what hasn't worked and focus on what hasn't worked," she said of her vision for the new department.

Skills development and financing were some of the challenges faced by small business.

"Sometimes people get a little money and they think that they've got a lot only to realise that that money wasn't really enough. So the issue of saving amongst our people is also very important. The challenge is huge but I don't think it's going to be that huge considering the fact that a lot of work has already been done," she said.

The minister has travelled extensively on the continent and has seen how SMMEs thrive in other countries, including foreign nationals who come to South Africa and start thriving small business.

"You look at some of the foreigners that are in South Africa today. They arrive in South Africa with almost nothing but they network, they support each other. Those are the things I think one would have to deal with in assisting SMMEs because there's got to be a connection, networking and support for each other."

The department will also look at the issue of government not paying small business within the prescribed time [that of 30 days]. The minster will also engage financial institutions as well as get small business owners organised into formations.

"We need to find a way to pull people together, the issue of cooperatives for instance is one of the most important elements," she said, adding that it was also important to be sensitive to the challenges faced by small business.

"We need to look at what strategies we can employ to make sure that our people don't find themselves where they were 20 years ago," she said.

Earlier today, the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) welcomed the new ministry.

Delivering the 2014 Budget in Cape Town in February, former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said businessmen had raised concerns recently that they were not receiving enough support in order to sustain their enterprises to levels at which they can contribute to growth.

The budget (which was tabled in February) allocated R6.5 billion over three years to support small and medium enterprises.

Monday's swearing-in ceremony also saw the swearing into office of Cyril Ramaphosa as the country's Deputy President as well as the swearing in to office of deputy ministers.

The ceremony, which was also attended by President Zuma, was presided over by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who was assisted by Deputy Justice Dikgang Moseneke as well as Justice of the Constitutional Court Judge Sisi Khampepe and Judge President of the North West Division of the High Court, Judge Monica Leeuw.


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