Magwanishe spoke to the media in Durban yesterday, during the official launch of African Blaize Apparel, the country’s biggest 100% black-owned textile factory, in Verulam, north of Durban.
Magwanishe said the government had considered increasing tariffs to protect the local textile industry from foreign competitors.
“The biggest challenge we are facing is the competitiveness of the industry. That is why in March we are going to unveil a master plan to try to protect the industry and increase its competitiveness.”
KZN Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC, Sihle Zikalala, accompanied Magwanishe.
The factory supplies its products to Pep, Mr Price and a number of other retail shops in the country.
African Blaize Apparel chief executive Sizwe Mbanjwa said the company, which had state-of-the-art machines, was 100% black-owned and managed and had 500 employees, although its target was to have 700.
Mbanjwa said he was concerned because many clothes were imported illegally from neighbouring countries.
“They pay a fraction (in their countries) for what we pay (in South Africa), but all those clothes that are produced find their way into South Africa, and we have to manage our borders.”
Zikalala said the factory was a demonstration of the concerted and continued effort by the state to support black industrialists and to grow those sectors that were more labour intensive, such as clothing and textiles.
“We know that in the recent period the industry had to succumb to severe international pressure, leading to the dwindling of local manufacturing capacity, resulting in job losses in Mandeni, eThekwini, Howick and Newcastle.”
Zikalala said the KwaZulu-Natal government had partnered with the private sector to revive the industry.
“As the government we continue to avail financial assistance and non-financial support to make the domestic clothing and textile industry more competitive.”