Zuma's economic zone re-launch just a PR campaign – Roy Jankielsohn

DA says the Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality, in which the MAP-SEZ falls, is bankrupt

Zuma & Ace’s Maluti-a-Phofung SEZ re-launch just another empty promise & PR campaign

25 April 2017

The re-launch of the Maluti-a-Phofung Special Economic Zone (MAP-IDZ) by President Jacob Zuma and Premier Ace Magashule today, in Tshiame, Harrismith, is nothing but a waste of money, an another empty promise and a PR campaign to boost the image of Zuma and the ANC.

Magashule’s track record as Premier speaks for itself. He has been unable to produce any sustainable business enterprises or projects in the province amid many costly launches.

As an aside, Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, launched the Botshabelo Industrial Park, as part of the N8 Airport Corridor Development Node, just before the local elections last year. To date there has been no visible economic movement at the park.

The provincial government’s projects are used to extend networks of patronage and for looting by corrupt cadres and their business partners, the most infamous being the Vrede Dairy Project.

As early as 2006, then President Thabo Mbeki indicated that the Harrismith Hub, later the Harrismith Logistics Hub, would be developed. Premier Magashule launched the project, then renamed the Maluti-a-Phofung Industrial Development Zone (MAP-IDZ), to much fanfare in 2013, alongside the then German Minister of Justice, Martin Gunther, announcing that the R1,5 billion project would create 29 000 jobs. The German Minister pledged R57 million towards the project.

Premier Magashule at the 2013 launch stated that the provincial government will immediately apply to the national government to declare the zone a ‘special economic zone’. The application was gazetted in 2014 and Minister Jeff Radebe announced in June 2015, following a cabinet meeting, that the application was successful.

About R40 million was spent on erecting a perimeter fence and entrance which only created about 70 temporary jobs. The fence has since been vandalised in several places.

To date, apart from the perimeter fence and entrance, no new bulk infrastructure has been established. At the very least bulk service infrastructure needs to be established in order for the zone to become attractive for investment.

In true ANC style, there has been a flurry of activity in anticipation of the President Zuma’s visit tomorrow. The grass was cut, fences repaired, potholes were filled and some abandoned and dilapidated pre-existing factories were hastily demolished. While other smaller pre-existing factories are being re-fenced and painted. This is nothing but a shoddy attempt at window-dressing.

The Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality, in which the MAP-SEZ falls, is bankrupt. The municipal Eskom bill is outstanding at R1,8 billion as per the latest figures and the municipality has been threatened with punitive scheduled blackouts due to non-payment.

The communities of Qwa-Qwa have been living without sustained water supply for several years now and there has been a complete breakdown in basic municipal service delivery. The municipality’s 2014/15 AG report came with disclaimer with findings, while Unauthorised Expenditure was almost R1 billion (R957,9 million), Irregular Expenditure at R30,8 million and Fruitless and Wasteful Expenditure came in at R77,7 million.

Economic development takes place in municipalities, and the delivery of reliable basic municipal services, such as a sustainable water supply, functional sanitation, a sound roads infrastructure, and reliable electricity supply, are prerequisites for attracting investment that could spur economic development and growth.

The sad reality is that the Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality is so badly governed under the ANC, that it is actually scaring off investors instead of attracting them.

The Executive Mayor of Maluti-a-Phofung, Cllr Vusi Tshabalala, is a loyal cadre of Magashule’s patronage network, and remains untouchable despite the terribly poor governance in the municipality under his watch. Mayor Tshabalala displays misguided priorities by hosting ANC-aligned music festivals at taxpayer expense, most recently hosting the ‘Welcome Home’ concert for the disgraced Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

The DA fully supports MAP-SEZ in principle. It has the potential to attract massive investment that will supply relief to some of the more than 485 000 Freestaters that are jobless, many of whom reside in the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality that includes Qwa-Qwa.

Only a DA-led government can bring much-needed relief to the people of the Free State. The DA has a track record as an alternative government that delivers basic services and sound financial management, creates an enabling environment for job-creating investment and is serious about combatting corruption.

Issued by Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition, 25 April 2017