Johannesburg - South Africa’s new mining minister is unlikely to succeed where others failed and bring a swift end to the four-month strike at the world’s biggest platinum producers, said analysts at Investec and Noah Capital Markets.
Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi has assembled a team representing different government departments who are today meeting with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and employers to try to find a compromise after other efforts at mediation failed.
“To date, government has had little credibility at the negotiating table,” Michael Kavanagh, a Noah analyst in Cape Town, said in a note to clients.
“We are sceptical that Amcu will suddenly respect him or his ministry and as such are not overly optimistic that a solution will be found today.”
Ramatlhodi, a former deputy prisons minister with no experience of the mining industry, was appointed this week to a post-election cabinet that analysts said didn’t inspire confidence in an economy battered by its longest mining strike.
Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin calculate lost revenue at 20.1 billion rand and estimate 8.9 billion in forgone pay for employees.
“We hope to see progress, but don’t anticipate any rapid solution with the strike heading for its 19th week and neither side in a position to give way,” analysts including Hunter Hillcoat at Investec said in a note.
Ramatlhodi took over the mines portfolio from Susan Shabangu, appointed by President Jacob Zuma in 2009.
Former Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe headed earlier efforts by the government to find a solution to the dispute.
Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant was also involved.
The Department of Mineral Resources had little public presence in ending the strike until Ramatlhodi was appointed.
Talks between employers and the Amcu mediated by a labour- court judge have yet to result in an agreement, imperiling the second-largest economy on the continent.
The strike reduced mining’s contribution to the economy by the most in 47 years in the first quarter, resulting in the first contraction in gross domestic product since a 2009 recession, Statistics South Africa said this week.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said the government is doing “everything in its power” to end the strike and that compromise is needed from both sides.
The government will only intervene in “extreme circumstances,” Nene told reporters today in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital.
The parties at today’s talks will “explore all possibilities for a resolution” and “report back by the end of the day on what is possible,” Ramatlhodi said yesterday in a statement on the ministry’s website.
More than 70,000 Amcu members walked off the job January 23.
The union wants 12,500 rand in basic monthly pay excluding benefits. It has given the companies four years to meet that level.
The producers have increased their offer to an annual increase of as much as 10 percent.
“We are also concerned that the minister will ask the companies to give more,” Noah’s Kavanagh said.
“By asking the companies to give more, the minister will be accelerating mine closures and destroying jobs.”
The Labour Court of South Africa yesterday granted an order requested by Lonmin to prohibit the Amcu from encouraging or participating in the “block of entrances and exits” at the company’s operations.
The union is also prevented from “intimidating, assaulting, or, in any way, interfering with persons who are not participating in the strike,” an e-mailed copy of the ruling shows.
The Amcu has to communicate the order to its members by “loud hailer” at mass meetings, through leaflets and radio broadcasts.
The court told Lonmin to communicate the ruling’s content to its employees by text messages on behalf of the union, the decision shows.
Police have confirmed several attacks on non-striking employees in the past four months and have pledged to step up security for those wishing to report for duty.
Two members of the minority National Union of Mineworkers, which hasn’t joined the strike, were attacked with Molotov cocktails near Anglo American Platinum’s Union mines, the labour organisation said in an e-mailed statement on May 27. - Bloomberg News