With the Makhado Municipality flogging off 14 of their industrial erven, comprising 14,4ha at a price of a mere R288 000 back then for the construction of the colour steel factory, the property is today still as barren and undeveloped as the day it was sold. Most of the palisade fence surrounding the property has also since been stolen or carried away as scrap metal.
Date: 16 April 2017 By: Andries van Zyl
While many residents eagerly await the realisation of the Makhado/Musina Special Economic Zone (SEZ) as approved by government in July last year, others remain very sceptic about the whole project.
The Makhado/Musina SEZ is reported to attract an investment of more than R40 billion for the establishment of an energy and metallurgical industrial park near Mopane between Louis Trichardt and Musina. The industrial park will include a power plant, as well as coking, ferrochrome, ferromanganese, ferrosilicon, pig iron metallurgy, lime, steel and stainless steel plant. The investment is to be made by Chinese company Shenzhen Hoi Mor Resources Holdings Ltd. They signed a cooperation agreement regarding the Musina/Makhado SEZ with the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA) on July 28, 2016, in Beijing.
Many residents may, however, remember the huge fanfare that was made in March 2003 when the Makhado Municipality signed a twinning agreement with the city of Dandong in the People’s Republic of China. Part of this agreement entailed a R103 million investment by the Chinese for the establishment of a colour steel and sheet metal factory in Louis Trichardt’s industrial area. The area was to be developed as an industrial park.
Back in 2003, the colour steel project was paraded as one of the municipality’s flagship developments. Boasting some 200 local job opportunities, the factory was supposed to be fully operational by January 2004. To date, this development is just another example of a “white elephant” deal. With the municipality flogging off 14 of their industrial erven, comprising 14,4ha at a price of a mere R288 000 back then for the construction of the factory, the property is today still as barren and undeveloped as the day it was sold.
To shed more light on what exactly government has planned regarding the SEZ, the Soutpansberg Chamber of Commerce held a business evening on 16 March, inviting among others Mr Lance Fenn. Fenn is the infrastructure, planning and implementation manager for the Musina/Makhado SEZ, working on contract basis for the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA).
Fenn assured the local business fraternity that the SEZ is coming to the Soutpansberg. “We are going to be developing over the next thirty years. We already got R40 billion invested. That is the first phase. In the end of the day, we are looking at an investment of over R400 billion.” Fenn said. He, however, touched lightly on the exact details of the project, stating that within the next four to five weeks, he will sit down with the Chamber of Commerce to give a detailed explanation of the project and to address doubts and possible fears.
Another contentious issue highlighted by residents during the evening, was whether the project will indeed create 20 000 job opportunities “as advertised”, the argument being that if the Chinese are to invest that amount of money, then surely they would want to bring in their own skilled workers? “We are very aware of the foreign stake in the local market,” Fenn said, adding that government is aware of the fears and are addressing the issue of jobs through agreements. “They must use local people. If they say: No, our spinoff is that we train people, this training can’t stop after six years. You must train on a continued basis. And you don’t just train gardeners and operators. We would like to see engineers, business people, medical staff and things like that,” Fenn said.
Ms Lulama Tshabalala, a member of the Limpopo Tourism Agency’s executive for tourism and marketing who also attended the evening, added to Fenn’s comment, stating that indeed government does take the issue of local job creation seriously. “The Limpopo government said no, you are not bringing your own people,” said Lulama. She added that the provincial government has good plans in place to protect local jobs.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.