As we steel ourselves for steps backward, so we inch forward

Business

As we steel ourselves for steps backward, so we inch forward

Billions in new fixed investment pledges stand in stark contrast to SA’s collapsing manufacturing sector

Claire Bisseker

As ever, it has been a week of stark contrasts in SA. On the one hand, President Cyril Ramaphosa has been basking in pledges of R363bn in new fixed investment; on the other, SA’s industrial base continues to bleed. How can these two stories be reconciled?

In Durban, a beaming Ramaphosa opened Mara’s new R1.5m hi-tech cellphone manufacturing facility and, in Tshwane, a new automotive special economic zone in partnership with Ford, where nine car manufacturing companies will open factories, scoring R3.6bn in new investment and the creation of 6,700 direct jobs. In addition, Isuzu Motors in Port Elizabeth has committed to investing R1.2bn to run its next-generation bakkie programme out of SA. Almost R3bn in local content will be generated through the project’s lifetime.

But then ArcelorMittal announced it is winding down its Saldanha Steel plant, with the immediate loss of 900 jobs; SAA has been grounded by strikes over the planned retrenchment of as many workers; and the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) narrowly avoided having power to several lines being cut over a R250m unpaid power bill...

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