Lockdown stalls R8.8bn worth of KZN investments
Shirley Le Guern
Durban - NEW investments in KwaZulu-Natal, worth approximately R8.8 billion, have been stalled by the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
This includes the construction of the R1.3bn Wilmar palm oil plant and the R4.3bn Nyanza Light Metals facility in Richards Bay as well as nine new investments worth R3.2bn at Dube TradePort.
This emerged during the sitting of the National Council of Provinces yesterday when KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube stressed that Covid-19 should be seen as an opportunity to reignite economic growth in the province, with job creation as the strategic goal.
She noted that out of the 62 companies that had applied for liquidation nationally, only 12 were from KZN.
She added that key employment growth goals would be reached through unleashing agricultural potential; the enhancement of industrial development through investment in key productive sectors; revival of manufacturing and tourism, boosting the informal economy as well as telecommunications, digital, oceans and green economies; and growing the renewable energy, transport and logistics and services sectors.
She added that plans also included the expansion of government-led job creation programmes, promoting small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and co-operatives, entrepreneurial development and supporting innovation and localisation.
“Our greatest concern is that job losses have resulted in spiralling levels of poverty. Many people have been retrenched and condemned to rural villages and peri-urban informal settlements with no means of survival. In addition, spiralling food prices are rapidly increasing the number of people who are food insecure.”
Dube-Ncube said that the agricultural potential of KZN offered significant
growth opportunities and that the province should no longer be a net importer of agricultural goods.
“Instead of wallowing in self-pity, we are saying the lockdown regulations, which resulted in the disruption of global value chains, are a blessing in disguise. Indigenous people are being empowered to be self-sufficient and produce their own goods,” she said.
Through the Radical Agrarian Socio- Economic Transformation Programme, the government had identified products and services that should be provided by previously disadvantaged groups.
She said her department had successfully co-ordinated the procurement of perishable food through five prioritised District Development Agencies for three months and had supplied emerging farmers with 15 refrigerated trucks, 10 bakkies and 10 two-ton trailers to transport food. Revolving funds of about R15 million would ensure on time payment of emerging farmers.
Agricultural goods worth approximately R44m were also being supplied to more than 27 public hospitals and retail shops.
Dube-Ncube said a one-stop-shop set up via Trade and Investment KZN had processed more than 5 000 enquiries and had assisted SMMEs and companies to claim Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits and to access business relief funding.
She said 1 805 applicants had accessed national temporary relief schemes in April and May.
Debt relief of about R97m had been approved for SMMEs and had saved 4 596 jobs.
Under the Spaza Shops Support Programme, about 401 spaza shops owned by young people and women had received R1.4m in assistance.
More than 607 businesses in the tourism sector had each received R50 000 in funding from the National Tourism Fund while 736 registered KZN Tourist Guides had been assisted to apply for the Tour Guides Relief Fund.
She noted that the Operation Vula Fund was allocating R18.3m to assist 15 small toilet paper manufacturers.
More than R17m had been allocated to 15 companies in the bakery and confectionery sectors in townships and rural areas. Some R5.4m will support five small enterprises producing detergents and chemical cleaning products and R25.6m will be made available to 87 small clothing and textile enterprises.
In view of more than 3 000 complaints about price hikes, the department was supporting spaza shops across the province, according to Dube-Ncube.
“In the next few weeks, we will invite spaza shop owners to apply for a working capital of R100 000. This will help to acquire stock and to fund a shortfall of liquidity for Sassa pay-outs.
“A grant facility of R50 000 will also be made available to spaza shop owners for the refurbishment of their outlets.
“We have (also) identified Ithalaowned buildings and industrial parks which are being converted into bulk-buying facilities where commodities required by spaza shops will be available at cheap prices,” she said.
Melanie Veness, head of the Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business, said business needed all the help it could get.
She said that business recoveries were being hampered by load shedding, infrastructure failures and backlogs at ports and government departments.
“Right now, business needs an enabling environment to get back on its feet. We are not asking for anything astronomical, just for basic services that are reliable and at a competitive price.”
Chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry Palesa Phili said that entrepreneurship and job creation would definitely serve as catalysts for economic recovery. She said the chamber was optimistic about South Africa’s economic recovery despite low levels of growth and the high unemployment rate of 31.1%, which made it clear that the country’s economy was struggling and would continue to do so for a significant while.
“The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes that there’s an urgent need for economic reforms to ensure economic recovery.
“Adapting is the key concept. Businesses have become agile enough, quickly changing to deal with the circumstances brought about by Covid19. However, policies and decisions of government need to be in the best interests of the business community and beneficial to inclusive and sustainable economic growth,” she said.