JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) wants to have South Africa’s “unfavourable” trade agreements reviewed and potentially amended as the country struggles to industrialise and beneficiate, exacerbating the current jobs “bloodbath” in the mining sector.
Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday, AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa said government was failing to take the necessary steps to attend to the structural challenges in an economy where external pressures are being exacerbated by internal factors.
“The South African economy is facing numerous challenges facilitated by its poor manufacturing base and lack of capacity to create demand and absorb people into the labour market,” he said, noting the role this has had in raising the country’s unemployment rate to a record 27.7% and the fact that South Africa imported more goods than it exported.
He said companies were spending externally and creating markets for other countries’ products, creating a jobs-export dilemma.
“It is time that government reviews all trade agreements with a view to stimulating our economy and addressing our social justice needs. The trade agreements need to put South Africa first,” Mathunjwa said, adding that industrialisation and beneficiation would be a buffer for job losses.
Further, companies were increasingly looking outwards to diversify, taking much-needed capital out of South Africa to invest in foreign assets, mostly in the US.
“This is externalisation of employment and opportunities that could have been available to South Africans,” he averred.
Sibanye Gold acquired US platinum producer Stillwater Mining Company for $2.2-billion earlier this year.
In July, Northam Platinum announced its intention to enter the platinum-group metals (PGM) recycling sector through an aggregate $10.7-million acquisition of PGM recycling equipment and property, also in the US.
“It is important to note that these business decisions have the effect of exporting jobs and exporting wealth. The decision . . . by Sibanye to acquire Stillwater Platinum in the US, shows investment in the job security of workers abroad,” Mathunjwa told media.
This amid mass retrenchments currently being faced in the domestic sector, where workers were being seen as “expendable in pursuit of profits”.
More than 70 000 mining jobs have been lost in the past few years.
This trend is expected to continue following the announcement by numerous companies of intentions for mass retrenchments.
AngloGold Ashanti is in the process of retrenching 8 500 workers, Sibanye is shedding 7 400 jobs and Bokoni Platinum Mine is set to retrench 2 651 employees.
“We are calling on all stakeholders, including the Department of Mineral Resources, to intervene, where necessary, so that a concerted solution-driven initiative can be triggered to prevent this jobs bloodbath,” Mathunjwa pleaded.
He added that the licensing provisions in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act also needed to be reviewed to enable the commissioning of State reviews of companies’ investment choices.
“Invariably more needs to be done to ensure that the country is a favourable investment destination.”
However, the pressurised mining sector had also been caught in the crosswinds of political squabbling that had left it with a “lack of targeted focus from the leadership” of the country.
“People are caught in the political arena with narrow, selfish interests of jostling for power. This often happens through sideshows which captivate society and divert attention from real bread and butter issues.”
This meant that government was not taking the necessary steps to curb job losses.
“The fact of the matter is that it is politicians who decide who will have and who will not have. The politics that are at play have not attended to the structural issues that are affecting workers at large,” Mathunjwa commented.