Port Elizabeth – As residents of New Brighton in Port Elizabeth started making their way to a local community hall, where President Jacob Zuma is due to address them later this morning, the focus has shifted to the Eastern Cape as one of the important provinces to South Africa’s economic growth.
Despite persistent rain, which has been pouring since last night, hundreds of people are expected to gather at Nangoza Jebe Hall in the township to welcome the President and his delegation of ministers.
President Zuma has visited the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality three times since he took office in 2009.
All his visits in the past focused on infrastructure, such as the Port of Ngqura, the Coega Industrial Development Zone and the automotive sector, which is historically the backbone of the region’s economy.
Government adopted the National Infrastructure Plan in 2012, which intends to transform the country’s economic landscape, while simultaneously creating significant numbers of new jobs and to strengthen the delivery of basic services. Under the programme, 18 strategic integrated projects (SIPS) have been developed to speed up the roll-out.
In 2012, President Zuma officially opened the Port of Ngqura, which falls under SIP 3. It has since become Africa’s premier trans-shipment hub, linking the world’s east and west trade routes.
At the time of the launch, President Zuma said the port, which has recently overtaken Cape Town as the second busiest container terminal in Africa, will be further developed in the next few years in order to improve South Africa’s international maritime connectivity.
With the automotive industry remaining critical to the Eastern Cape’s economic growth, President Zuma in 2011 decided to establish a team to follow up on matters raised by the sector after he met with industry leaders in Port Elizabeth.
President Zuma has since visited automotive plants in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro to drum up support for job creation.
The burgeoning investment in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) has changed the face of the Eastern Cape economy over the past few years – from one that had been overly dependent on the automotive industry, to a new focus on manufacturing and agro-processing.
Investor confidence in the IDZ has continued to grow, with six new investors committing to the IDZ in the second half of 2012, and new investments injecting R1.7 billion into the Eastern Cape economy in 2012/13.
The first commercial vehicles to be assembled at the 30 000 m2, R600-million FAW Trucks commercial vehicle plant are scheduled to roll off the assembly line in July.
The plant, financed by First Automotive Works (FAW) China and the China-Africa Development Fund, is expected to eventually produce 5 000 trucks a year.
In New Brighton today, President Zuma is likely (Editor: maybe that should read ‘hoping’) to hear how various infrastructure programmes in the region have bolstered economic growth in Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas.
The visit today takes place under the hallmark of the Siyahlola Presidential Monitoring Programme, which provides an opportunity for government to assess progress in service delivery.
The Presidency said the visit will look into general issues of governance and also the delivery of basic services such as water, housing, electricity and others in the municipality.
The President is leading a delegation of several Cabinet Ministers, Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet, MECs and members of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Mayoral Committee. – Chris Bathembu, SAnews.gov.za
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