WESTERN Cape Finance MEC Alan Winde has described President Jacob Zuma’s launch of the Saldanha Bay industrial development zone (IDZ) last Thursday as a triumph of multiparty collaboration.
The new zone is one of 18 strategic integrated projects earmarked by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission, as part of South Africa’s R4-trillion infrastructure development plan over the next 15 years. The designation of the deepwater port about 100km north of Cape Town as an IDZ has involved all three tiers of government.
Most pertinently, though, it has required high-level collaboration between the ruling party and the opposition Democratic Alliance.
Earlier this year, the Department of Trade and Industry identified 10 potential special economic zones (SEZs) countrywide, saying it would conduct feasibility studies to determine their viability. Among these was Saldanha Bay.
The country’s three existing IDZs — in Richards Bay, East London, and Coega outside Port Elizabeth — were due to fall under the special economic zones programme.
Mr Winde said on Monday the process had taken nearly five years from prefeasibility study through to Competition Commission go-ahead and a final round of public comment.
But with the Cabinet signing off at the end of last month, the road was now open for the port of Saldanha to become a major international maintenance hub for Africa’s booming oil and gas industries.
The Department of Trade and Industry said on Sunday that efforts by the national government to make the west coast economically viable would receive a boost when the president hands over the development zone’s operator permit.
Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said besides lifting industrial development in Saldanha, which was now mainly an export hub for iron ore, his department’s “west coast fishing cluster” co-operatives initiative was part of the regional industrial development plan.
Domestic marine repair firms already conducting oil and gas rig maintenance in the Western Cape — both in Cape Town harbour and at Saldanha — would benefit from the building of “industrial capacity” and also the significant “international interest” that Mr Winde said has been shown in the port.
“So there will be more services available and this will begin to attract more businesses,” especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
But Mr Winde said apart from first-class infrastructure, the potential list of government incentives to be developed under the state’s new special economic zones legislation would not involve labour dispensations. “The government has been pretty strict on that. There won’t be a reprieve on labour legislation.”
Mr Davies said the Saldanha Bay IDZ would help to enhance national government initiatives that sought to create “viable economic regional participation”.
According to the study, the project had the potential to create about 12,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs in the area, while attracting about R9.3bn of foreign direct investment over 25 years.