President Jacob Zuma

Pretoria - Steps will be taken to improve public and investor confidence in the economy and to promote social stability, it was agreed at a social dialogue meeting on the state of the economy on Friday night.

This would be done using the government, business, labour and community resources and capacities to build a partnership for development, the presidency said in a statement issued after the closed door talks.

At the end of September, Moody's Investors Service downgraded South African bonds by a notch to Baa1 from A3.

It referred to “increased socio-economic stresses” in the country which were hampering the government, “relatively high labour costs despite high unemployment”, and infrastructure shortfalls.

On Friday, Standard & Poor's cut the country's sovereign debt rating by one notch, and blamed unrest affecting the mining sector.

Urgent steps were needed to avoid an economic downturn, President Jacob Zuma told senior government, business, labour and community representatives at the talks at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse, east of Pretoria.

He said the spate of violent labour disputes were a major cause for concern.

“I am sure that all of us share that concern. We also agree that this is not something we want to see in our country, where there are mechanisms in place to deal with industrial disputes, or any other disputes.

“Labour disputes do not need to degenerate into violent confrontations and 1/8lead to 3/8 loss of life as what happened tragically in Marikana and other strikes.”

Delegates discussed the country's problems taking into account slowing global growth, the industrial relations environment, and the need to speed up the fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment, said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj.

They emphasised the need not to deviate from collective bargaining in favour of short-term solutions which did not assist in the long run, he said.

They urged law enforcement agencies to act firmly to curb lawlessness and violence associated with unprotected strikes and protests, within the framework of the law.

Maharaj said the meeting welcomed the end of the truck driver’s strike and welcomed efforts to resolve strikes in the platinum, gold and coal mining industries.

“They 1/8delegates 3/8 will co-operate strongly to make these a success,” he said.

Maharaj said it was agreed to use the terms of the 2009

Framework for South Africa's Response to the International Economic Crisis, which set out a collective response to the economic situation.

“In particular, they agreed to incorporate the lessons that were learnt in the implementation during the 2009-2011 period and to fast-track its relevant provisions as appropriate,” he said.

He said the government had drafted a framework for responding to the situation. The discussions would be finalised on Wednesday. - Sapa