Pretoria - The R15.8 billion project to upgrade a Silverton-based Ford vehicle manufacturing plant is on track, and it is anticipated to be completed in September next year.
So said the Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Parks Tau, when he accompanied the Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Fikile Majola, to evaluate the construction work under way at the site yesterday.
Known as the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone, the project was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019, with a R15.8bn investment injected into South Africa from the Ford Motor Company and a further R4.3bn investment from automotive components suppliers located at the project.
On the envisaged date to complete the project, Tau said: “Firstly, it is anticipated that it will be at full production by September next year, but that should also acknowledge that some of the work has already started.”
He said it ought to be borne in mind that one of the sites was still under construction.
“There is still a process of installing equipment, but production has already started. This would be linked to the work that we are doing together with the national government, Transnet and the government of the Eastern Cape to ensure that we also facilitate expansion of our railway network to be able to export the bulk of vehicles to be produced from this plant,” Tau said.
The plant upgrade of the Silverton plant would in future see Ford building the next-generation Ranger bakkie for both local and export markets.
Majola said at least 6 000 jobs had been created so far, and the number of jobs continued to grow as the project developed.
He said their tour of the plant was to pave the way for the visit of the Ford president, who is expected to evaluate the project in November this year.
Majola sang the praises of the work done on site since the sod-turning ceremony led by Ramaphosa in 2019.
“(Then) we walked into this area and it was an open veld. What we see happening here is an amazing feat. These buildings that we see here were not here.”
He said at least 70% of the work had been completed, with factories that needed to be on-site already accommodated.
“We are now preparing for the last three factories that ought to be on site to be on-site. It is an amazing job that has been done here. It is something that has not been done, definitely not in the South African context – the speed with which the contractors have put this facility together,” Majola said.
He pointed out that despite the progress made there had been many challenges, which included Covid-19 and the availability of steel.
“There have also been challenges with regard to labour stability,” Majola said, adding that the local community was anxious to know about employment prospects.