By Emma Thomasson
DAVOS, Switzerland Jan 23 The South African
government needs to "engage" with platinum and gold mining firms
about proposed shaft closures and mass lay-offs and is not
threatening them with licence reviews, President Jacob Zuma said
"We are not making any threat to anyone. We are saying: 'Let
us come together, let us discuss. This affects all of us. It
does not affect companies only,'" he told Reuters on the
sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Zuma's comments strike a more conciliatory tone than the
prevailing rhetoric from Pretoria in the wake of Anglo American
Platinum's announcement this month of plans to mothball
shafts and lay off 14,000 workers as part of a restructuring by
parent company Anglo American.
In an unscripted tirade against the company shortly after
its announcement, mining minister Susan Shabangu accused Amplats
management of keeping the government in the dark and betraying
The ruling ANC also attacked the restructuring as "cynical
and dangerous" and said it justified a review of mining licences
across the industry, which is still largely controlled by South
Africa's white minority.
Party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe kept up the pressure
this week, telling South African radio that Anglo had "stolen
our money" - remarks that helped knock 2 percent off the global
mining giant's share price.
However, Zuma made clear that no rash decisions should be
taken by either side.
"I don't think we should say either government should make
unilateral decisions - for example the licenses - or that
companies should have unilateral power to say 'Because our
company is in trouble, without consulting anybody, just take
action'," he said.
"We are a constitutional democracy. We must engage."
South Africa's mining sector employs 500,000 people and
accounts for more than 6 percent of GDP but suffered the worst
industrial unrest since apartheid last year, including the
police killing of 34 strikers at Lonmin's
Marikana platinum mine in August.