JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - New South African mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has pledged to mediate in a crippling platinum strike now in its fifth month and said the government needed to start treating the striking AMCU union with respect, local radio said on Tuesday.
Ramatlhodi, who was sworn in on Monday evening, also told Power FM that mining companies had not done enough "to address the well-being of workers", particularly in relation to the squalid living conditions seen around many mines.
The three main platinum firms - Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin - have been through several rounds of talks with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) but have made little headway in narrowing the gap in their wage demands.
The strike is now the longest in the history of South Africa's mines. Another round of talks, mediated by a labor court judge, kicked off last week and is still going.
Ramatlhodi, an advocate who served as deputy prisons minister in President Jacob Zuma's previous administration, has a reputation as a gruff African nationalist who believes whites retain too much control of Africa's most advanced economy.
He would start strike mediation as soon as he had been briefed on his new portfolio by department officials, he told Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702.
(Reporting by Xola Potelwa; Editing by Ed Cropley)