JOHANNESBURG South Africa will likely miss its target of creating five million jobs by 2020, given labor strife and strained relations between the government and private firms, a newspaper quoted a deputy minister as saying.
"We are not going to achieve them (job targets) if we don't systematically look at priority sectors," Economic Development Deputy Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize told Business Day in an interview - marking the first such public admission by a government minister.
President Jacob Zuma's government has pushed a major development plan to slash unemployment to 15 percent from 25 percent over seven years, but economic growth remains far below the levels needed to reduce the problem, carving deep social divisions in Africa's largest economy.
Referring to one priority sector, Mkhize said often-violent wildcat strikes in recent months and the threat of job losses at some of the country's mines stand in the way of creating jobs.
Two major mining firms are looking to slash jobs due to labor strife with Anglo American Platinum, the largest producer of the precious metal, planning to mothball some of its operations and cut some 14,000 jobs.
Harmony Gold, South Africa's third-largest gold producer also plans to mothball its Kusasalethu mine, which could lead to 6,000 job losses.
Zuma's ruling African National Congress has severely criticized the moves and threatened to review mining licenses.
The possibility of further job losses has kept tensions simmering in the mining sector after strikes last year left more than 50 people dead and shaved off about 0.5 percentage points from the country's 2012 economic growth.
The Treasury has forecast growth of 3 percent this year from 2.5 percent in 2012, far below the 7 percent the country needs to significantly reduce the jobless rate.
(Reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by Jon Herskovitz, John Stonestreet)