South Africa needed to find ways to deal with the current economic and job creation challenges and move forward, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
Zuma was addressing trade union and labour leaders from Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) during the Presidential Labour Working Group at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
In his opening remarks, Zuma acknowledged difficulties the country was currently facing, saying: “We meet today when our economy is facing strong headwinds due to a weak global economy and some challenges in the domestic sphere.”
He noted that successful nations were built on the foundation of common purpose and said “our culture of consultation and dialogue to build a shared national vision and unity of purpose is what has made it possible for South Africa to succeed”.
He further acknowledged the high levels of unemployment and said: “The economic situation makes it difficult to create jobs, and this affects all in our country, and especially our youth.”
He said that growth was critical to creating employment, and without this it would be difficult to create the numbers of jobs that were needed to break the back of unemployment.
Zuma expressed his gratitude to “organised labour for working with government and business” in concert to steer the country away from a ratings downgrade recently.
He said there was a need to work together to solve the country’s challenges and that this concerted effort “showed immense patriotism and unity in action to build our country”.
Zuma emphasised that workers needed to be protected, especially vulnerable workers, and this included matters pertaining to the minimum wage and the comprehensive social security system.
He pointed out that recent amendments concerning domestic workers and farm workers who were “arguably the most vulnerable among workers” ensured that the scope of protection for them was extended.
He said much needed to be done to strengthen the economy and address the domestic constraints to growth.