MANDENI local municipality is picking up the pieces rebuilding ruined infrastructure in its economic hub following clashes between ANC factions fighting for the control of the small town’s resources.
Isithebe Industrial Park located in the heart of Mandeni on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast is arguably one of South Africa’s largest industrial hubs and it is home to many multinational companies, employing more than 21 000 locals.
Of this number, about 10 000 locals have been laid off as a result of the violent demonstrations which engulfed the area between April and June last year.
The protest was triggered by the refusal of former Mandeni local municipality mayor Siphesihle Zulu to vacate office.
Angry residents led by an ANC faction against the former mayor went on a rampage accusing Zulu of corruption, nepotism and stalling various community projects as a result of interfering in the awarding of tenders.
The violent demonstration lasted for two months and reduced the small town into a no-go-area.
This week during her budget speech, KZN MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Nomusa Dube -Ncube said the provincial treasury through her department had made funds available to revive the industrial park.
“Isithebe is the heartbeat of economic activity in Mandeni, the region and the province. We have made funds available for the continued revitalisation and its expansion. The provincial government wants to make this area the heart of manufacturing. We are also modelling it to be a development area for heavy industries,” said Dube Ncube.
He said the proximity of the area to key economic zones and road networks made the park a goldmine for the province.
“The area is allocated strategically in the centre of Dube Trade Port Special Economic Zone and it is also close to the King Shaka International Airport,” explained Dube -Ncube
Isithebe is a major booster and economic driver in the manufacturing and assembly sector, but it has since plummeted due to hostile market conditions and uncertain business mood. This has further been complicated by big businesses deserting the area in droves citing hostile political climate. Some industries doing business in the park include Gomma Gomma ( furniture manufacturer), Whirlpool South Africa for appliances, Nampak (paper packaging) and many textile manufacturing firms.
Cobus Oelofse ILembe Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer warned that if the situation is not contained in the industrial heartland of the district, poor people will suffer.
“It is in the interest of everyone to keep Isithebe alive. Both the local municipality, government and the private sector must work together to curb job losses and reignite business confidence,” said Oelofse.
Newly appointed Mandeni mayor Thabani Mdlalose told Inside Metro that they had planned a series of engagements with local business to avoid jobs bloodbath.
“Top of the agenda is to ensure that business confidence is renewed in our area. We will be engaging the business community to find out their concerns. We hope that this will yield positive results,” said Mdlalose.
(Compiled Inside Metros staff)