SONA 2014 - President Jacob Zuma delivering his last State of the Nation Address to a Joint Sitting of the two Houses of Parliament. 13/02/2014, Siyabulela Duda, GCIS

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma's warning on conflict in the mining industry should be taken seriously by mine workers and mining companies alike, a University of the Witwatersrand economist said on Thursday.

“One has to hope that the mining industry and mine workers were listening carefully when President Zuma spoke from his heart about the important role that mining plays in creating jobs and exports for the South African economy,” Kenneth Creamer said.

“There are tremendous structural changes underway in the mining industry and the current wave of conflict needs to be replaced by genuine dialogue if there is to be a win-win outcome.”

Zuma deviated from his set state-of-the-nation speech to warn against conflict in the mining sector.

“In no way can we have conflict that destroys the economy,” he told MPs during a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

Zuma said that while mine owners sought to keep their mines running, unions, representing workers, sought to ensure good working conditions, decent wages and secure jobs for their members.

Negotiation was key “because, in the end, if these two sides don't work together... it affects the economy of the country,” Zuma said.

On youth employment initiatives, Creamer said government's focus was correct.

“But it needs to be closely monitored whether the promised work opportunities will impart the skills and experience necessary for young people to find real jobs, and play entrepreneurial roles, in the economy.”

Zuma's emphasis on growth in the tourism sector and its job-creating potential was also well placed, Creamer said.

“Further momentum should be added to the tourism sector by the weakening of the rand which makes the country even cheaper to visit for visitors from other parts of Africa and further abroad.

“President Zuma is correct that for most people South Africa is a much better place now than it was in 1994, but much still needs to be done to make it a better place for all people living in South Africa, many of whom remain disadvantaged and destitute,” he said.