Johannesburg: The Marikana tragedy should make South Africa turn the tide on how the country confronts poverty and inequality, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Friday.
“It also challenges us to recommit ourselves to more effective social dialogue at national and regional level,” Motlanthe said.
He was speaking at the opening of the annual National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) summit in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg. Other speakers at the summit included trade union federation Cosatu’s General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and businessman Raymond Parsons.
About 44 people were killed, including two police officers, during clashes between striking Lonmin platinum mine workers and the police in Marikana, North West, last month. President Jacob Zuma has appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the incident.
Motlanthe said while the events would be fully investigated, South Africans needed to learn from the tragedy and find a common vision to take the country forward.
“Now is the time to begin laying the basis for a social contract for our labour relations and our labour market that will contribute to achieving a more equitable and inclusive form of economic growth,” he said.
Vavi said the disaster was a wakeup call for South Africa, adding that something needed to be done to improve relations between employers and workers. He likened the tragedy to a “ticking time bomb” that eventually exploded.
“We have always said we are sitting on a ticking time bomb and Marikana is that bomb and it exploded”.
The Marikana incident followed by on-going strikes has reportedly led to a massive drop in Lonmin shares and had led to threats of a looming instability in the mining sector.
Government this week stressed the need to maintain stability and confidence in the sector cautioning those who sought to incite violence to refrain from doing so.
Motlanthe, in a bid to assure investors, on Friday said the year to date had seen important milestones for South Africa citing a 2.7 percent increase in the Gross Domestic Product in the first quarter of 2012 and a further 3.2 percent growth registered in the 2nd quarter.
Although the country had not recovered the jobs it lost during the 2008 global economic crisis, more than 320000 jobs were created in the formal sector between mid-2011 and this year.
“There are grounds for cautious optimism that the economy may be moving into a more stable phase of growth,” said Motlanthe.
However, he cautioned many risks remained present in the international economic environment saying a lot depended on how the Euro-zone crisis is resolved.
Continued positive growth in the economy would be the most important way in which South Africa addresses poverty and unemployment, Motlanthe said.