Feb. 14 - President Zuma warns South Africa can't afford further unrest in the mining sector. But is he in denial about the true gravity of his country's economic ills? David Pollard reports.
It's a long way from this ..... .... to this. President Zuma tried to close the gap a bit in his annual state of the nation address - with a caution to South Africa's all-powerful mining companies. SOUNDBITE (English) SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, SAYING: ''Let me also remind mining companies that 2014 is the deadline for them to improve housing and living conditions of mineworkers." Behind the rhetoric, of course, are economic facts. Mining accounts for a huge share of GDP - the current strike across the platinum sector costing an estimated $36 million a day. SOUNDBITE (English) PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, SAYING: "We need a mining sector that works. Mining employs over half a million people. It is the biggest earner of foreign exchange in our country." While efforts to end the strike are limping forward, Zuma was short on much to address other challenges. Top of the list: a sliding currency, and major structural problems. Julian Mayo of Charlemagne Capital. SOUNDBITE (English) JULIAN MAYO, CO-CIO, CHARLEMAGNE CAPITAL., SAYING: ''Firstly, is the appalling standards of education in South Africa where it rates very, very low compared with other emerging markets. And the other question is the strong, again the paradox if you like, of having high wage growth at the same time as you've got high and rising rates of unemployment.'' That unemployment is fuelling a wave of township violence. And elections are less than three months away. The unrest is increasingly political - moving from grievances over issues like poor power supply to clashes between parties. As, this week, in Johannesburg when the Democratic Alliance - clad in blue - marched on the ruling ANC - in yellow. The ANC's been in power for the two decades since apartheid ended - and is expected to secure a majority. But radicals like ANC renegade Julius Malema are nipping at its heels. He preaches nationalisation of mines, banks and farms. And if he gets the votes some predict, he'll push the ANC below its crucial psychological threshold of a sixty percent majority - potentially triggering another major headache for the South African president.