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Newly-appointed Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi says he has set up a task team to look into resolving the platinum mine strike that has dragged for more than four months.

The minister, who was sworn into office on Monday, has hit the ground running and is scheduled to meet with mining bosses at 10am today.

In a radio interview on Wednesday morning, Minister Ramatlhodi said he had on Tuesday met with three unions that are involved in the mining strike – the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), United Association of South Africa (Uasa) and Solidarity – in a bid to begin a process of mediating the industrial action.

“I have tasked my deputy [Minister Godfrey Oliphant] yesterday afternoon to put together an inter-ministerial team, technical team so that it gives me the capability to begin the process of mediating with the parties.

“So that team will be inaugurated today at my office,” he said.

Minister Ramatlhodi says while his job is to facilitate talks instead of negotiating with the parties, he decided it was time that government got involved after mediation talks that were being facilitated by a labour court judge appeared to have fallen through, although he was still waiting for confirmation.

Labour Court Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker last week persuaded labour and the mining companies to enter into mediation headed by herself.

She had been scheduled to hear an urgent application by Amcu to interdict the platinum companies from smsing employees directly regarding their wage offers, but instead held a meeting with the parties behind closed doors. The three days of mediation talks started on Wednesday at an undisclosed location.

Stats SA announced on Tuesday that the country’s GDP slumped by an annualised rate of 0.6% in the first quarter of 2014 compared with an increase of 3.8% during the fourth quarter of 2013.

Statistician General Pali Lehohla said the mining (-1.3%) and manufacturing (-0.7%) sectors were the main contributors to the decrease in economic activity, and added that the growth was worse than that of the second quarter of 2009 (-0.6%) when recession was at its peak.

“…The economy is almost knocking into the doors of the recession, and we should not allow that to happen to ourselves. The damage takes many years to repair. So ending the strike will contribute a hundred fold to the economy,” said Lehohla.

The minister added that during the meeting with the unions on Tuesday, the President of Amcu, Joseph Mathunjwa, had given him the assurance that while his members were still on strike, “they were doing everything possible to reach an agreement with the mining houses”.

The union is demanding a basic salary of R12 500 a month. –