* Industry body head fears thousands of job cuts
* Sees more violence between rival unions
* S. Africa Q3 growth seen halved on mines unrest
By Olivia Kumwenda and Wendell Roelf
JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN, Nov 23 South Africa's
strike-battered mines sector could see thousands of job cuts and
further violent clashes between rival unions, the national
mining industry group warned on Friday.
The last of South Africa's recent crippling wildcat strikes
ended last week, after leaving more than 50 dead and temporarily
halting mining output in the continent's top economy.
But the three months of often violent unrest have poisoned
industrial relations and the union turf war that sparked the
strikes shows signs of flaring up again.
Two workers at a Harmony Gold mine near
Johannesburg were killed on Thursday in a clash between the
once-dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the
smaller Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union
That violence is likely to continue, said Bheki Sibiya,
chief executive of the Chamber of Mines, the group that
represents the industry.
"What is happening at Harmony is a continuation of what we
have observed," he said at the Cape Town Press Club.
"I think we are still going to observe quite a bit of it
before it settles."
He also warned that the strike-hit industry will likely need
to shed thousands of jobs, sobering news in a country where
unemployment hovers at around 25 percent, and the wealth
disparity is among the most glaring in the world.
"There are going to be retrenchments in the first quarter of
2013.... It is probably in the thousands, possibly going above
ten (thousand) and maybe higher."
Harmony, South Africa's third-largest bullion producer, said
on Friday operations at its Kusasalethu mine 65 kilometres west
of Johannesburg had not been affected by the violence that left
Spokeswoman Henrika Basterfield told Reuters there were no
further reports of violence at the mine.
Analysts say the tension between AMCU and the NUM, which has
had its dominance challenged by the smaller union, is likely to
AMCU charges that the NUM, with its connections to the
ruling African National Congress, has lost touch with the needs
of average workers, who still live in grinding
The labour strife and the resulting deaths - including 34
striking miners shot dead by police in a single day in August -
have dented the image of the ANC and President Jacob Zuma as
they prepare for a party leadership election next month.
Despite criticism that his government mishandled the mines
crisis, Zuma is widely expected to keep the ANC presidency.
But this week's trouble at Harmony was unlikely to be a
"one-off" event, said Loane Sharp, a labour economist at
staffing firm Adcorp.
"For as long as the causes of the protests and unrest are
not addressed, the mining sector will remain vulnerable to these
sorts of actions by workers," Sharp said.
"I am referring to the labour law and regulations that
promote the larger trade unions and exclude the smaller ones."
South Africa's labour laws make it difficult for smaller
unions to participate in labour negotiations.
Harmony Gold chief executive Graham Briggs said AMCU had
applied for recognition at the company.
Mass job cuts in mining are likely to further strain South
Africa's battered economy. The pace of economic growth probably
halved in the third quarter, according to a Reuters poll, after
the strikes hit mining output.
Gross domestic product (GDP) probably grew at 1.5 percent in
the quarter, from 3.2 percent in the previous three months,
according to the median forecast in a poll of 15 analysts.
"The slowdown has largely been a result of the mining sector
strikes, which have caused output levels in the sector to
plummet," said Shilan Shah of Capital Economics.
Mining accounts for 4 to 6 percent of South Africa's GDP.
The strikes have also battered the rand currency,
which has depreciated by about 11 percent against the dollar
this year and touched a 3-1/2 year low this week.
Central bank governor Gill Marcus on Thursday cautioned that
the fall-out from the strikes was far from over.
"While many of the strikes appear to have been resolved,
long term resolution of the underlying causes requires ongoing,
concerted action on the part of all the parties involved," she