South African President Jacob Zuma has accused the AMCU union of irresponsibility for dragging out a wage strike in the platinum sector for almost four months, telling reporters there was a risk of workers losing their jobs because of the dispute.

Zuma, who has made almost no previous direct comment about the strike, took aim at the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) yesterday, underscoring political concerns about the stoppage and its impact on Africa's most advanced economy ahead of general elections on Wednesday.

"The union leaders have a responsibility ... to ensure workers are protected so they don't lose their jobs. You can't get into a strike that at the end the workers lose their jobs," Zuma told a news conference.

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But using typically combative language, AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa lashed out at the "platinum cabal" and its "exploitation of workers".