Thabani Mdlalose
Durban - The newly elected mayor of Mandeni together with the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Council is working on a plan to attract investors and create employment in the Isithebe Industrial Estate after about 4000 jobs were lost recently due to community unrest in the area.

Thabani Mdlalose, who replaced former mayor Bheki Magwaza in September, spoke during an inspection visit by the council to the area at the weekend, saying Mandeni used to have more than 40000 workers but this number had been reduced.

“There’s a plan that we are working on to attract investors to our area and employ our people,” said Mdlalose

Earlier this year, the community of Isithebe embarked on violent protest action and called for the removal of Magwaza, alleging that he was corrupt.

Factories in the industrial estate owned by the Ithala Development Finance Corporation were burnt, cars were stoned and the town was shut down, which drove some businesses out of the area, resulting in job losses.

Nomusa Dube-Ncube, the KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, in her capacity as the chairperson of the council, said their main concern was the loss of jobs in the area.

She said the council also received complaints about a lack of security and fencing at some of the factories.

Dube-Ncube assured big business that members of the council had planned more visits to Isithebe Industrial Park, which would include the iLembe Business Chamber, the community, the municipality and other key organisations.

“These visits form part of the council’s interventions aimed at creating a conducive environment for socio- economic development,” she said.

Dube-Ncube said their efforts would be focused on ensuring an equitable distribution of economic opportunities to uplift people who were living below the poverty line.

“We want our entities such as Ithala, which owns Isithebe Industrial Park, to create a friendly environment for both business and communities,” she said.

Peggy Nkonyeni, in her capacity as co-convener, said she would lead the call to get the private sector to invest in the area in “a manner that serves the overall development imperatives”.

Ilembe Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Cobus Oelofse, said neither the chamber nor the Isithebe Business Cluster had attended the inspection visit.

Oelofse said it would have been beneficial to have local corporates involved, even if it was just for reassurance.

Dube-Ncube said the council would also be visiting Richards Bay to address the unrest that recently crippled the town.

The Mercury