CAPE TOWN — South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Wednesday issued a warning about the yawning gap between rich and poor, after a deadly mine strike highlighted inequality.
The country’s “conspicuous consumption… in the midst of grinding poverty” was likely to ignite strong feelings against the wealthy, he told journalists, adding: “It’s an ingredient for a revolution actually.”
South Africa has been rocked by increasingly violent protests over the slow delivery of basic services like housing while unemployment persistently hovers at around 25 percent.
Earlier this month, a strike over wage demands at the world’s third largest platinum producer Lonmin claimed 44 lives.
The violence, however, was unlikely to deter investors, due to South Africa’s rich mineral deposits and generally stable industrial relations, Motlanthe said.
“We don’t anticipate that investors would be put off or discouraged by these tragic developments in Marikana. However we must continue to reassure them as well,” he said.
And he said mining bosses should “think very differently” about their workforce’s living conditions, after it emerged that Lonmin workers lived in shacks.
“Stability is a pre-condition for productivity to improve but with these kind of conditions, stability is not guaranteed,” he said.
Around a third of South Africa’s 50 million population survives on welfare grants from the government.
“We are already in an untenable position (in) that we have 15 million recipients of grants,” he said.
While he condemned violence, he stressed that the striking Lonmin miners were within their rights to raise grievances.
“It’s a necessary volatility that we must respond to,” he said.