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Sweeping factory shutdowns in the east deal severe blow to communities

Ekangala community is now faced with the high unemployment rate and rising poverty levels following the departure of factories from Ekandustria in Bronkhorstspruit.

Hundreds of community members in the east of Pretoria have been plunged into poverty following the closure of up to 10 manufacturing plants in Ekandustria near Bronkhorstspruit.

Community leader Kgaugelo Phiri said the residents of the farming community were plunged into poverty and high levels of unemployment following the departure of the big firms in the last three years.

“Our community largely depends on farming which is seasonal and the manufacturing industry, to provide for their families. With large factories leaving the area, hundreds of people took a hard knock because each factory employed about 300 people,” he said.

Phiri said lack of proper service delivery in the area and political instability created by local “business forums” were some of the reasons that led to the closure of the firms.

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“Labour disputes were an issue. The way the business forums dealt with issues created more problems. As it stands, the factories are deteriorating along with the hope of residents.”

Newly formed political party Action SA Tshwane leader Abel Tau who visited the town on Tuesday, said Ekangala was becoming a “ghost town”.

“The town shows the plight of unemployment that our people are experiencing. The situation is quite dire. There needs to be investors that can invest in the manufacturing sector so our people can have jobs again.”

Thousands of jobs could be created in Tshwane should the Ekandustria business community be revitalised, said Action SA president Herman Mashaba.

“South Africa is one of the countries that has abandoned factories and faces a high unemployment rate. Today, we sit with idling factories as you see in Ekangala, Atteridgeville and all the other areas that used be industrial hubs,” he said.

“South Africa is alive with opportunities. We just need the right leadership. Abandoned industrial facilities and infrastructure can be recommissioned under new ownership, or converted into mixed-use developments that include affordable housing. So that the streets that used to be hubs of economic activity, cannot be barren.”

Mashaba said his party would embark on a research project with some of the leading universities to understand how the facilities, just like the ones in Ekandustria could be made available to the private sector so they can be repurposed and redeveloped.

Chief economist at Efficient Group Dawie Roodt said the cost of electricity and mounting pressure of economic challenges contributed to the closure of factories.

“Uncertainty in politics and weak economic growth are some of the reasons that have led to the country de-industrialising coming at a cost of many jobs,” he said.

On the road to rehabilitation, Roodt said there needed to be stability in politics and levels of taxes for the sector to be relooked at.

“The government needs to be friendly towards investors to try and get them to invest in our factories.’’

Earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking on economic recovery, said the interventions would include re-industrialisation that would see the manufacturing economic sector ignited.

He said one of government plans was to reverse the decline of the local manufacturing sector and promote re-industrialisation through deeper levels of localisation and exports.

“Our recovery will be propelled by swift reforms to unleash the potential of the economy, supported by an efficient state that is committed to clean governance. It will be transformative. It will be inclusive,’’ he said.



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