The Maluti-A-Phofung special economic zone is the first to be developed in an area that was once part of the Bantustan industrial parks, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
These parks were created not because of their economic potential, but to sustain apartheid, he said at the unveiling of the new zone in Harrismith, Free State.
"This is a special development which forms part of our conscious efforts of creating economic development and growth opportunities close to where our people are. This we do through promoting industrialisation and also the development of the township and rural economy," he said, according to a copy of his speech.
A balanced regional economy and industrial development were critical to radical economic transformation, he said.
For too long the country's economy had relied on the regional hubs of Gauteng, Ethekwini, Pietermaritzburg, and the Cape Peninsula, which together accounted for about 70% of the country's gross value added.
Other regions were completely neglected and their development potential severely restrained. These regions lacked industrial infrastructure and world-class higher education, which were critical ingredients for economic and industrial success.
To date there are eight special economic zones in the country, in addition to the old industrial development zones.
"The special economic zones and industrial parks programmes are critical to our efforts to radically transform the economy," he said.