Parks Tau criticised after only one special economic zone operational in Gauteng
Pretoria - Gauteng MEC for Economic Development Parks Tau has been criticised by the DA after it emerged that the province has only one special economic zone up and running.
The status of the special economic zones in the province was laid bare when Tau responded to written questions posed by the DA's Makashule Gana in the legislature.
It also came to light that the Vaal’s zone “only exists on paper as part of a master plan while there is no geographical location for this zone”, according to Gana. The roll-out of special economic zones in the province is seen as a way to reignite the economy by attracting investments and creating jobs.
Tau said the operational special economic zone was the OR Tambo International Airport Precinct 1, which formed part of the programme in Ekurhuleni metro. According to him, Precinct 1 is a 7.5 hectare land parcel located inside the property boundaries of OR Tambo International Airport.
He alluded to the fact that Vaal zone was “still in the incubation stages” with no operation company in the proposed zone.
He, however, said the Department of Economic Development had contributed R16 million towards operational costs of the proposed Vaal economic zones for a period of three years. “The funds are primarily for the development of a business case, feasibility studies and regional master plan for designation purposes,” Tau said.
In reaction to the answers, Gana bemoaned the fact that the situation did not augur well for economic development and job-creation.
“Special economic zones play an important role in encouraging the private sector to invest in the economy and also play an important role in ensuring that skills transfer can take place in the community where they are operational. This is key to ensuring that the current unemployment rate in the province decreases.”
He said what was more concerning was Tau’s statement that “the jewellery hub, which is the second phase of this special economic zone in Ekurhuleni, will become operational in the 2022/23 financial year”. While there were no financial contributions from Ekurhuleni towards the special economic zone, it emerged that the City of Tshwane had committed R288m to its economic zone over the 2020/21 and 2021/22 financial years, to install bulk infrastructure such as water and electricity supply.
It was previously mentioned that Tshwane’s special economic zone would receive a financial boost of R153m to support its vision of reigniting the regional economy and creating employment. The City’s economic zone is part of the industrialisation agenda, with its implementation taking place in Silverton, where Ford Motor Company is expected to manufacture more than 200 000 vehicles by 2022. Three spheres of government were investing R3.3 billion in the project’s infrastructure.
According to investors in February, the project had unlocked R4.3bn investment by suppliers and a further R15.8bn investment by Ford.
Gana said he would engage with Tau “to ascertain what plans are in place to ensure that all special economic zones and industrial hubs are operational and what time frames are in place for this to happen”.