File picture: Ria Novosti Pool

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma made an impassioned plea to mining bosses to avoid retrenchments in the mines, warning that doing so would increase the poverty levels in the country.

He was addressing more than 20 000 people during the Women’s Day celebrations in Zamdela township in Sasolburg on Sunday.

Prior to expressing his concern over possible job losses, Zuma joined the nation in acknowledging that the UN had noted that the country had played a significant role in curbing Aids deaths and new infections.

He also said the public health sector was easily accessible to people, while more children were attending no-fee schools in the country.

Soon afterwards, Zuma pointed out the negative effects of mine retrenchments, saying they would affect many people.

“While counting achievements, we also emphasise that the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality remains, and women bear the brunt.

“But we also note the positive impact the provision of a ‘social wage’ package has had in reducing poverty in the country,” he said.

“This includes free prim-ary healthcare, no-fee-paying schools; social grants – most notably old-age pensions and child support grants – RDP housing; and the provision of basic services to households, such as water, electricity and sanitation.”

Zuma said through these services, the government cushioned the poor from destitution. “The grants continue to be among the most effective poverty alleviation mechanisms of the democratic government.

“They will continue to be so, given the difficult global economic situation. Our economy is still not growing enough to create more jobs. Unemployment, poverty and inequality remain a stark reality.”

The president said he was concerned about the talk of massive job cuts in the mining and steel sectors.

“While we understand the economic pressure that some sectors are facing, we urge business to contain the difficulties as much as possible and not to resort to retrenchments at the first opportunity.”

The retrenchments would have a huge negative impact on the social and economic landscape in the affected provinces and will affect scores of families and communities.

“We trust that business and labour will engage fruitfully on this matter. The government stands ready to support and assist wherever possible,” Zuma pointed out.

[email protected]

The Star