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Crisis excellent opportunity to rescue mining – Motlanthe

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Crisis excellent opportunity to rescue mining – Motlanthe

Mining Weekly Online’s Martin Creamer talks to former President of South Africa and labour union leader Kgalema Motlanthe on how the declining mining industry can be rebuilt. Photographs: Duane Daws. Video and Video Editing: Nicholas Boyd.

7th January 2016

By: Martin Creamer
Creamer Media Editor

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The current crisis in South Africa’s mining industry should be grasped as an excellent opportunity to introduce material change through an effective joint organising body that gets things done within specified timelines.

“We’re in a rut and need to pull ourselves out of it together,” says former President of South Africa and former National Union of Mineworkers luminary Kgalema Motlanthe.

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In the attached video interview with Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online, Motlanthe expresses the belief that the industry’s current period of desperation is conducive to participants tackling issues with open minds.

“When you have a desperate situation, you also can’t leave anything to tomorrow. It has to be done today,” says Motlanthe, who is in full agreement with the modernisation of the mining industry and believes that skills training, new equipment and innovation are critical to the competitive future of mining. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video).

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As the leading figure in the establishment of a framework agreement for mining after last year’s five-month strike on the platinum belt, Motlanthe sees putting an end to the trust deficit between government, business and labour as an urgent priority.

He would like to see an organising committee established similar to the local organising committee of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, to champion the cause of improvement.

In his view, the free flow of information will play an important role in empowering mineworkers to understand why government, business and labour need to act in unison for the benefit of the long-term interests of shareholders, management and workers.

“Information is power,” he says, adding that for as long as mineworkers do not have access to the basic economics of running a mine, they will not understand the importance of productivity.

“Many managers are loathe to share information with workers but that’s where the key to unlock potential really lies,” says Motlanthe, who advocates adoption of Germany’s codetermination system, which he believes is the reason why German workers invariably moderate their demands during periods of economic downturn.

On the productivity improvement front, he says South Africa could learn from many countries that train their work forces to meet specific tasks and offers the example of Sweden being able to embrace modern technology because of its excellent training system.

He would also like National Treasury to be far more forthcoming about the crucial problems confronting the country so that mining is able to play its part in helping to solve these.

Motlanthe, whose late father and two younger brothers worked for mining company Anglo American and whose own involvement with mining was as a unionist, served as President of South Africa from September 2008 to May 2009, following the resignation of Thabo Mbeki.

After the end of his presidency, he served as Deputy President of South Africa until 2014, when he declined to run for a second term.

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