(Adds details, quotes)
MAPUTO, May 29 (Reuters) - The South African government is taking the initiative to end a crippling platinum sector strike now in its eighteenth week, new Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Thursday.
"It's very critical, government is doing everything in its power. Government is taking the initiative," Nene told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Maputo.
The impact of the strike was seen in first quarter GDP data on Tuesday, where a 24.7 percent plunge in mining output dragged South Africa's economy into contraction.
Since the strike has spilled over into the second quarter, Africa's most advanced economy could head into recession this year.
"It is quite essential to realise what the impact is of the continuing strike", Nene, adding that compromise was needed from both sides.
"There is mediation at the moment... there are meetings now underway."
President Jacob Zuma picked a new cabinet on Sunday, and new mines minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has put together a team to help resolve the strike, saying the deadlock in the country's longest and costliest work stoppage would soon be broken.
(Reporting by Pascal Fletcher; Writing by Xola Potelwa; editing by David Dolan)