ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. Picture: Adrian de Kock.

Cape Town - Safety and security must be restored in the platinum belt in the North West so that workers are free to resume work, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.

“We are still by and large a mining economy. Now, if your platinum sector is not producing for five months, that will impact on the overall performance of the economy,” he told reporters at Parliament.

“So that strike needs to be attended to.”

Mantashe said foreign nationals were negotiating on behalf of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), but declined to mention names or nationalities.

“Four people from foreign countries are actually right in the negotiations of Amcu and basically articulate the position of Amcu. That is a worrying situation,” he said.

“If you allow a free for all, the risk of economic sabotage becomes real, because you will have people of all political persuasions come into the country and you will begin to see agitation in a country.”

Mantashe said South Africans were naive to think they were the beneficiaries of global goodwill and that the country was immune to meddling.

“The problem in South Africa is that we think we are loved by everybody. We always think it can happen in Egypt, it can happen in Tunisia, it can happen everywhere, it will never happen to us,” he said.

“It will happen to us if we are reckless and we allow things to go as they can and people to do as they wish.”

Since 34 mineworkers were shot dead at Marikana in August 2012, another 17 people had died there in violence related to the lingering labour unrest.

“Our view is that state security must actually deal with the fact that... people feel so frightened that they can't go back to work even if they are starving,” Mantashe said.

“There must be security and safety in the area so that people can make decisions, whether they want to continue to strike or they want to go back to work and not be frightened that you will go to work and may not see the sun the following day as death will be the case.”

It was reported that Mantashe has been fingering Liv Shange, a Swedish national and deputy general secretary of the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp), who has termed his remarks xenophobic.

Shange told the media it was outrageous that Mantashe was blaming the strike on a “third force”.

The strike began on January 23 and this week saw the SA Reserve Bank warn that it would drive down export figures as platinum stocks began running out.

Earlier in the day, the mining companies said an agreement in principle had been reached with Amcu. They did not elaborate. - Sapa