(File photo) Malusi Gigaba. Photo: Brandon van der Mescht

Pretoria - Many jobs could be lost in South Africa if unrest in the mining sector is not curtailed, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Friday.

Prolonged unrest would undermine investor confidence and could result in job losses in the sector, he told reporters in Pretoria.

“The current unrest in the platinum and gold mining industry could have far-reaching implications, particularly for the diamond sector. At the core of the issues is that natural resources of the country are not being exploited and developed to the benefit of South Africans,” he said.

“Should we delay (to intervene) and the unrest is prolonged and becomes widespread, the first casualty could be the investment appetite in the mining sector and most importantly, jobs. The most immediate casualty would be jobs.”

Gigaba said South Africa needed to regain the confidence of foreign and domestic investors alike. Government would work with its partners in labour and business to stabilise the sector, said Gigaba.

“The challenge we face as government, mining sector, and unions is to ensure that we close the space for those who seek opportunistically to exploit genuine industrial disputes in the mines for political ends,” he said.

“It’s quite clear that in the wake of the tragedy at Marikana there are many people who have sought to abuse the situation for political gain. We need to bear in mind that in a volatile situation like that, any leader would calm the tempers of the people.”

The solution to the Marikana impasse would not be found “on the streets, with people shouting at one another”.

“The reality is that people have lost their lives there (at Marikana),” said Gigaba.

“Instead of leaders going there to fan the conflict, promoting the impasse, and hyping up the emotions, we need the leadership to say 'give the commission (of inquiry) time'.”

The minister announced a review of the board of struggling state-owned diamond miner Alexkor.

“Our annual review of the board has necessitated that we rotate the board and include new skills, sense, and expertise.”

Gigaba announced that Rafique Bagus would chair the new board.

Only Dr Roger Paul had been retained from the previous board, “to provide institutional memory and continuity,” said Gigaba. - Sapa