The announcement by General Motors, for long the world’s biggest motor manufacturer, that it was pulling out of South Africa will bring dismay to some and delight to others but it will give everyone pause for thought. Is this another indication that South Africa’s industry is doomed?
Our most powerful trade unions, notably Numsa (National Union of Metalworkers of SA), will probably be delighted.
They hate capitalism, and GM is the supreme example of a capitalist producer. Strikes and militarism by Numsa against GM are no doubt a reason for GM’s departure.
Good riddance! I can hear Numsa say, echoed by the Communist Party and their allies in the ANC.
The greens will also be delighted.
They hate industrialisation. Personally, I am dismayed. I believe that SA can only prosper, and reduce her appalling unemployment and poverty, through economic growth based on industry and manufacturing.
I believe that SA should use its mineral treasures to produce goods of high value rather than exporting them raw.
Powerful forces tell us our industry is doomed. After 2007, when Eskom ran out of electricity, SA experienced her worst ever deindustrialisation when industrialists stopped development.
Pessimists tell us they will never come back.
On the specific subject of motor car manufacturing, the MIDP (motor industry development programme) is controversial.
It gives protection against imported cars, so making vehicles more expensive.
SA has massive unemployment and a massive shortage of skilled workers, artisans, essential for industrialisation. So are the pessimists right? Is our industry doomed?
Must a multitude accept mass poverty while a lucky few find jobs in the services sector as bankers, brain surgeons, waiters, computer programmers and activists in green NGOs?
I see no reason why.
SA industry over the last hundred years has shown world-beating potential in pockets of excellence such as Sasol,
Eskom’s advanced coal stations, specialised manufacturing including aircraft parts, nuclear medicine and construction.
We can compete with the world in industry and manufacturing if we have the will to do so.
But do we have the will?