Johannesburg - The calibre of the next incumbent of the mineral resources portfolio in cabinet would determine whether or not the strike in the platinum belt continued, an analyst said as the ANC continued to hold a firm grip on power.
“We must really wait for who is leading the Department of Mineral Resources. If Susan Shabangu [the minister] stays, then I don’t imagine there will be a big push to end it, but someone new – who knows,” Peter Attard Montalto, an emerging markets economist at Japanese investment bank Nomura, said on Friday.
Indications before the elections were that the gloves were coming off against the apolitical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) as President Jacob Zuma gave the strongest sign of chagrin yet.
“I find there’s an irresponsibility element here. You can’t go on with a strike that at the end makes them lose their jobs. That is irresponsible.
“In any negotiations, you must be ready to give and take. You must be ready to compromise,” Zuma said last week.
The ANC won the election with a total of 62.2 percent of the vote, compared with a clearer 65.9 percent in 2009.
Perhaps taking lessons from the disastrous events of 2012 in Marikana, where 34 mineworkers died at the hands of police, the government has this far been careful not to muscle in on the strike.
Previous government efforts to bring order to the mining sector’s labour problems have failed and so have efforts to rein in Amcu. But now the strike looms embarrassingly for the governing party.
“These are the same people we have been dealing with for over a year. Zuma has been president for five years,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Friday.
“They have their agenda, but they should be in a position to say what is it that we can do better to encompass both employers and employees to resolve the strike.”
He said that the door to intervention from the incoming administration would remain open.
Attard Montalto said the election result was unlikely in itself to influence an end to the four-month-long action, given that Amcu operated so far out of the normal political space.
“The detailed vote results show a close alignment of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) voting patterns in the platinum belt and at mine shaft hostel voting stations specifically. EFF, as the voice of these people [and Amcu in a way] in Parliament, and on the ground will be interesting,” Attard Montalto said.
About 70 000 Amcu members have been on strike since January 23 at Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum. They have rejected the latest revised offer of R12 500 a month by July 2017 including benefits, and instead demand R12 500 basic pay which excludes allowances in four years.