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Zuma warns of recession due to S.Africa labour unrest

South Africa’s gold and platinum mines have lost $543 million to forced stoppages this year, President Jacob Zuma said Monday, warning that the country can ill-afford a recession due to growing mining unrest.

“Our financial indicators indicate that the total rand value of production lost in the gold and platinum group of mines due to work stoppages over the past nine months is close to 4.5 billion rand ($534 million, 415 million euros),” Zuma told a conference of the country’s powerful Cosatu labour group.

Addressing the four-day conference of the main umbrella union, Zuma urged striking mine workers and employers to find a solution to a spike in labour troubles that has flared into bloodshed and led to mine closures.

The government has struggled to rein in the growing unrest in the platinum belt in northwestern Rustenburg where a deadly wildcat stay away at Lonmin’s Marikana plant forced temporary suspensions at several nearby operations.

South Africa’s Treasury had forecast an indirect loss of 3.1 billion rand from strikes and stoppages on mines, said Zuma.

“The impact goes beyond the mining sector. The manufacturing sector … is already showing signs of strain,” he cautioned.

“We cannot afford to go into a recession, and revert to the 2008 and 2009 period where the country lost close to a million jobs, which we are still battling to recover.”

The government on Friday announced a crackdown on the unrest, sending the police with army support in the strike hit Marikana area to stabilise the area.