Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha hopes that setting up special economic zones (SEZs) will salvage the province’s
economy, currently ravaged by mass job losses, poverty and underdevelopment.
When the projects got off the ground, the SEZs, he said, they were expected to create 21,000 jobs for unemployed youth, adults, women and people living with disabilities.
Mathabatha said in his State of the Province Address (Sopa) last week more than R500 million had been set aside for the SEZs in Musina and Makhado in Limpopo.
“The manufacturing, agro-processing and logistics hubs of the project are finally taking off. We are well on track in turning the Musina-Makhado corridor into a melting-pot of industrial activity,” said Mathabatha.
He said the SEZs had embraced the net-zero carbon emission goal by introducing green solar power. He said in December last year, the Musina-Makhado SEZ secured an investment commitment for the first phase of the energy generation project in the form of a multibillion-rand, 1 000-megawatt solar power plant to support the metallurgical complex.
“In the same vein, we have made significant progress towards securing water resources for the SEZ,” said Mathabatha.
“This includes engagements with Zimbabwe and other Southern African Development Community member states for the provision of water in the zones.
“We are also excited about the partnership with the Vhembe Technical and Vocational Education and Training College to build its Musina satellite campus inside the SEZ. The partnership will contribute significantly to empower the youth in technical and vocational training.”
He added that progress to wards the designation of Fetakgomo-Tubatse SEZ was also at an advanced stage.
“Already 21 companies with a potential to invest R45 billion and create over 8,000 jobs have shown interest. The first phase, covering 316 hectares, will integrate the expansion of an already existing industrial hub focusing on building a mining input supplier precinct,” added Mathabatha.
But, according to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Mathabatha was all talk but no action. The party said he had been making promises of job creation in the SEZs for the past three years without anything tangible to show for it.
“Since 2019, you have mentioned investment figures on the Makhado-Musina SEZ,” said EFF chair at the Limpopo provincial legislature Jossey Buthane.
“You said the project would create more than 21,000 jobs with an investment of R150 billion. Now tell me, how many jobs have been created since then?”
Democratic Alliance caucus leader and member of the provincial legislature Jacques Smalle said SEZs of this magnitude were highly dependent on excellent road and rail infrastructure and stable electricity and water supplies.