Acknowledging the risks inherent in labour unrest on the mines he said: “In no ways can we have a conflict that destroys the economy.
“We need a mining sector that works. Mining employs over half-a-million people. It is the biggest earner of foreign exchange in our country.”
He believed both the mining industry and unions were aware it was in their interest to resolve their dispute and government’s intervention was yielding progress.
In a speech that began by saluting the legacy of former President Nelson Mandela, Zuma enumerated the achievements of South Africa’s successive democratic governments since 1994, starting with burying an oppressive minority regime.
They had made “South Africa a better place to live in now than it ever was before”.
He said GDP had grown to more than R3.5 trillion, jobs were being created again, and a record 15 million people were employed. He said the country still faced inequality, poverty, and unemployment and government’s efforts were focused on eradicating these problems.
It was crucial that business, labour and government join forces to create faster economic growth and jobs, he said.
In the face of pressure on the rand, which Zuma warned would make government’s infrastructure programme more expensive, the country needed to grow the economy at a rate of above five percent to be able to create the jobs needed.