Informal mechanics in KwaZulu-Natal will be given a lifeline with the establishment of state garages across the province
Durban - Backyard mechanics in KwaZulu-Natal will be given a lifeline with the establishment of state garages across the province.

MEC for economic development and tourism Sihle Zikalala has announced that said the government plans to build automotive service parks in various municipalities where all government vehicles will be serviced and repaired.

The pilot project is expected to be rolled out soon in three municipalities.

“This programme is aimed at recruiting and skilling backyard mechanics and young people, "Zikalala said. "These auto-service parks will be run by government and will be duly registered so that even insured private cars can utilise their services,” 

The project forms part of the department of economic development’s broader strategy of promoting economic inclusivity and stimulating economic activity in townships and rural areas through extending support to small businesses in those areas.

Zikalala first made the announcement of the state garages when he delivered his budget for 2016/2017 on Friday 5 May. On Tuesday he provided more details, saying service providers had been appointed to carry out a feasibility study which, among other things, will show how much the government stands to save by using state garages.

On the pilot hubs, Zikalala said: “The implementation of pilot hubs will be staggered. The first one will be in the Midlands, followed by the other two in the north and south.”

The project, Zikalala added, formed part of interventions aimed at ensuring the localisation of the economy.

“This project, besides upskilling local mechanics and creating jobs, will also ensure that government ploughs back directly to the communities instead of taking its fleet of cars to established companies that are not located within the communities,” he said.

Each park will employ a minimum of 50 permanent workers including mechanics, electricians, spray painters and panel beaters.

Zikalala said the government aimed to make these garages as effective as possible.  The hubs, which will be in a form of a mini industrial park, will also include incubation centres to train young entrepreneurs.

The automotive industry is seen as a strategic sector in the KwaZulu-Natal economy as it contributes significantly to the gross domestic product of the province.

The department said there were many informal and underdeveloped businesses that offered “aftermarket support” for the automotive sector. Most of these are found in townships and rural areas.

However, they are facing a litany of challenges including lack of financial support, poor infrastructure, lack of training or skills, lack of marketing support and inefficient distribution networks. The creation of the hubs is the government’s response to these challenges.

The Mercury

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