There are at least 28 mines in Limpopo’s Sekhukhune district municipality – yet it is one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the country.
Now, the district municipality’s mayor is lobbying for it to be accorded special economic zone status, in an attempt to change this.
Mayor Stan Ramaila wants Burgersfort and Steelpoort in Tubatse to be accorded special economic zone (SEZ) status to provide jobs for the unemployed, whose numbers are escalating.
In 2002, former president Thabo Mbeki identified Sekhukhune as one of the nodal points that needed urgent government intervention to reduce poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment.
Chrome and platinum, which are mostly exported, are mined there, but nearly three-quarters of the 1.1 million residents are unemployed and live from hand to mouth.
Yesterday, Ramaila said that in 2017, statistics revealed that unemployment in Sekhukhune stood at 49.6%. This was much higher than in the province as a whole, which stood at 28%.
In 2017, the annual household income level for 55% to 60% of residents in the district ranged from zero to R19,600, which was extremely low.
“Our growth points are in the areas of Tubatse, which is envisaged to host the SEZ. Other growth points include the agri-industry areas of Groblersdal and Marble Hall,” said Ramaila.
In his State of the Province address (Sopa) a fortnight ago, Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha said the province’s flagship Musina-Makhado SEZ project was nearing implementation stage.
“It is also worth mentioning that due to increasing investor appetite in this project, our initial target of creating 21,000 jobs is set to be revised upwards,” said Mathabatha.
Mathabatha said to ensure young people were properly equipped to benefit, Limpopo had established the Musina-Makhado SEZ skills development plan. He said the province wanted a significant number of the projected SEZ jobs to be taken up by the people of Limpopo, particularly the young.
Referring to Ramaila’s plan to use the SEZ to create jobs, Mathabatha added: “The application for the Tubatse SEZ is now at an advanced stage.
“We have resolved to lodge the Tubatse SEZ business proposal with the minister for trade and industry and economic development by the end of August.
“Pending these formal processes, we will be continuing with the industrial activities within this envisaged Tubatse SEZ. This includes, but is not limited to, the Mining Input Supplier Park and Construction Incubation.”
He said the district was working around the clock to reduce unemployment from the current 28% to 14% by 2024 via the SEZ initiative.
“In the same vein, we have established a partnership with the department of higher education and training, and technical and vocational education and training colleges for SEZ skills development.
“We are also establishing the Limpopo Skills Academy, through the Limpopo Economic Development Agency, to train applicants for SEZ opportunities.”