President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday that South Africa was forging ahead with radical transformation of the economy, and called on the private sector to partner with government in doing business.
Zuma was speaking at the relaunch of the 1 038 hectare Maluti-A-Phofung Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Tshiamo, Harrismith, in the east of Free State.
Zuma said the Special Economic Zones and Industrial Parks programmes were essential to radically transform the country’s economy.
“This is a special development which forms part of our conscious efforts of creating economic development and growth opportunities closer to where our people live. This we do through promoting industrialization and also the development of township and rural economies,” Zuma said.
“Government and the governing party are fully committed to pursuing and implementing a programme of radical economic transformation. One of the critical components of this radical economic transformation is the notion of a balanced regional economic and industrial development.”
Zuma also said that government was committed to making doing business easier.
“Through the applicable 15 percent corporate tax rate, government will reduce your tax burdens. Through the Customs Control Area facility, the South African Receiver of Revenues will make it easier and a little cheaper for you to trade.”
Zuma was joined by the minister of trade and industry (the dti), Rob Davies and his deputy, Gratitude Magwanishe, Free State premier, Ace Magashule, and several provincial MECs.
Magashule assured Zuma that the nation had full confidence in his leadership despite recent protests and fierce opposition from political parties which have threatened his embattled presidency.
“President, be strong. The nation is behind you and supports you. This is the time that South Africa needs you more than any other time, President Zuma,” Magashule said.
“It is only during Zuma’s presidency that Harrismith received attention despite trying to get attention since 2007. If it was not because of Pres Zuma and Minister Davies, Harrismith was going to be bypassed by development.”
Magashule also thanked the director-general of the dti, Lionel October, for playing a big role in bringing the SEZ to Harrismith.
Maluti-A-Phofung Economic Zone is 1,038 hectares of land envisaged to accelerate economic growth and development in the region, as part of the Government’s programme of radical socio economic change.
It was launched and renamed from Harrismith Logistics Hub in 2013, with an estimated R1.5-billion capital expenditure and 29,000 jobs expected to be created.
The provincial government then immediately applied to the national government to declare the zone a ‘Special Economic Zone’ for which approval and permission was granted in 2015.
The Maluti-A-Phofung SEZ will function as a back-of-port operation to ease congestion at the Durban port and provides South African customs functions and facilities for imported goods and export goods, including goods moving north into Southern African countries.
It will also provide road and rail logistics and handling facilities for the Gauteng–Durban port corridor and link it to the Bloemfontein–Cape Town corridor.
The main industries the Maluti-A-Phofung SEZ serves are agriculture, agroprocessing, automotive and logistics, which includes container terminal and car terminal facilities.
But the leader of the official opposition in the Free State, Roy Jankielsohn, rejected the relaunch of Maluti-a-Phofung SEZ, saying it was just another empty promise and public relations campaign by Zuma and Magashule.
“The re-launch of the Maluti-a-Phofung Special Economic Zone by President Jacob Zuma and Premier Ace Magashule today, in Tshiame, Harrismith, is nothing but a waste of money, another empty promise and a PR campaign to boost the image of Zuma and the ANC,” Jankielsohn said.
“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.”