04 August, 2014

The effect of strikes in the South African economy

Wandiswa Ntengento

 South Africa is a nation that boasts a rich history of political independence and cultural diversity .This is the same country that faced racial division, political oppression and social injustice during apartheid. However,this social war ended and a rainbow nation was birthed.

Even though South Africa has been emancipated from the apartheid regime, it still faces massive socio-economic ills. These factors have evoked uprisings in several sectors in the labour industry.

In the past months a number of strikes have plagued the country and caused a decline in the rand. In January hundreds of mineworkers downed tools demanding a monthly salary of R12 500 a month from mining giants, Lonmin and Anglo American Platinum. After lengthy negotiations AMCU members closed a deal with the platinum producers and signed an agreement. However, the strike had cost the platinum mining industry a loss of R24 billion in revenue.

According to the City Press, a total of 99 strikes were recorded in 2012 which almost half of them were unprotected or illegal strikes characterized by violence. Labour Director General, Nkosinathi Nhleko says that strikes over the period involved over 240 000 workers and had cost the economy 3.3 million working days.

 Nombuyiselo Njongisa, a government employed street sweeper describes the state of South Africa:

"South Africa is in a stationery mode because there is less progress happening. Government  and business owners are more concerned about themselves and what they can gain from the system rather than listen to the very people who voted them in power. The views of the people are no longer heard hence the uprising."  

This come after more than 200 miners were involved in a bloody shoot out with police in Marikana near Rustenburg in 2012 which left 34 miners dead and 78 wounded.


Economist at the Free Market Foundation, Jasson Urbach  provides a solution for strikes in South Africa in an article  titled The nature, causes and outcomes of strike action in SA:

"Government must start to think once again about ordinary poor South Africans - black and white. It will need to weigh up the risks of taking on vested interests against the risks of increasing unrest and disquiet among poor unemployed South Africans. The government must make up its mind as to whether in tackling unemployment it should look at the big picture that includes the unemployed or cater for the interests of the already employed.  The future of the country depends on this."

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