Hon Speaker, the social cohesion and nation- building programme of the government and society is still on track. The tragedy should strengthen our resolve to build a better society than the one we have had. I appointed a commission of inquiry to establish the facts about what transpired in Marikana.
The terms of reference were gazetted yesterday. Work is ongoing to sort out the logistical arrangements to enable the commission to begin work very soon. Government continues to support the families of all 44 people who were killed in Marikana through the Inter-Ministerial Committee led by Minister in the Presidency, Mr Collins Chabane.
We also acknowledge the support provided by religious leaders. Hon members, the tragedy has further highlighted the deepening levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality in our country and the frustrations that this generates. The reminder from the Marikana tragedy is that meaningful social cohesion will be achieved when we succeed in addressing socioeconomic inequality, poverty and unemployment. Our economy must grow and create more jobs to absorb the many unemployed and improve the standards of living. Meaningful economic transformation also has to be visible.
The finding of the Employment Equity Commission that there is still a remaining gross underrepresentation of black people, women and people with disabilities in key areas of the labour market, for example in management, should worry all of us.
The Western Cape province, in which we are meeting just now, is said to be the worst performing province both in the public and private sector in respect of employing black people, both men and women. Together we must ensure that transformation takes root in order to promote economic and social development in our country.
Another lesson from Marikana is the need to accelerate the transformation of the mining sector and to strengthen the sector, which has been the backbone of our economy for more than a century. The sector provides half a million direct jobs and a similar number of indirect jobs and is central to the country's developmental goals.
We should work together as government, labour, business, political parties and all stakeholders to promote adherence to the Constitution and laws of the land in dealing with labour disputes in the mining sector.
The worker demands for better wages can and should be addressed within the country's labour relations framework. The illegal strikes, the incitement and intimidation will not assist workers; instead, they will make them and the country worse off. The Department of Labour and institutions under its control such as the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, CCMA, stand ready to assist in mediating between the parties. Government is also continuously engaging mining companies to assess the implementation of the provisions of the Mining Charter to improve living conditions of workers.
In terms of the charter, companies are required to implement measures to improve the standard of housing and living conditions for mine workers. They must convert or upgrade hostels into family units, ensure one person per room and facilitate home ownership options for mine workers by 2014. We continue working with the sector to monitor progress through the Department of Mineral Resources.
Fortunately, hon members, we met recently at the social cohesion summit in Kliptown in Soweto. We agreed at the summit that we must build a caring and proud society based on the values enshrined in our Constitution, together. We must put our country first and defend South Africa from the opportunism that will set us back many years to come. I thank you. [Applause.]