Dimbaza to rise from the ashes

REVERSING HUB’S ECONOMY: One of several identified industrial zones in Dimbaza, which the Eastern Cape government is in the process of reviving to create more jobs Picture: SIBONGILE NGALWA
REVERSING HUB’S ECONOMY: One of several identified industrial zones in Dimbaza, which the Eastern Cape government is in the process of reviving to create more jobs Picture: SIBONGILE NGALWA
More than R300-million has been earmarked for revitalising the Dimbaza industrial hub, with a number of projects and jobs in mind to boost the economy in Buffalo City Metro.

The hub was once an active industrial node under the apartheid government, but over the last decade many companies have pulled out and several factories in the area now stand abandoned.

A start-up budget of R344-million is to be spread across three years for the Dimbaza industrial hub and the establishment of an industrial eco park.

In the 2016-17 financial year, R118-million will be spent, in 2017-18, R172-million, and the year after, R54-million, mainly from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) is spearheading and managing the project, and if council approves, BCM will play a role in upgrading the bulk infrastructure, issuing planning approvals, environmental health permits and re-zoning processes.

A presentation submitted to stakeholders in April and seen by the Daily Dispatch showed that phase one of the project will include construction of a hydroponics complex, where products such as vegetable greens, berries, edible flowers and spices and herbs would be produced.

A food factory, recreation and eating space, retail centre, upgrading of roads and infrastructure are just some of the projects in the pipeline for the area.

In a bid to create a mixed-use area, the ECDC development rollout plan also includes “construction of residences for professionals and higher income workforce” and to “encourage BCM process for informal settlement upgrading”.

BCM’s new council speaker, Alfred Mtsi, last week confirmed the city’s developmental planning directorate was working on the upgrading of a human settlement project so residents could get title deeds.

Mtsi said the new council would discuss and decide on the Dimbaza Industrial Hub and Eco Park projects on Wednesday.

The metro has also been requested to reduce its normal tariffs for municipal services, including water, electricity and rates for “industrial incentives”.

In a report submitted to council last month, BCM economic development project specialist Noludwe Ncokazi said it was necessary for the city to take action and partner with the various departments already on board and working towards the revitalisation of Dimbaza, to reverse the dismal economy in the hub after the collapse of industrial activity in the area.

“Significant consultation” with relevant stakeholders, including Eastern Cape economic development and finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo and the former head of BCM’s economic development portfolio, councillor Pumla Nazo, have already taken place and the ECDC’s planning process is at an “advanced stage”.

Ncokazi said: “The Department of Trade and Industry and the provincial Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs and Tourism leadership have confirmed their support in driving the revitalisation of dilapidated industrial sites under the stewardship of the ECDC…against a particular shared resolve by government to change the fate of Dimbaza and other industrial parks.”

The Daily Dispatch understands that, in addition to the “significant consultation” with major stakeholders, there has been preliminary engagements with other stakeholders including the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform.

“The planning process, led by the ECDC is at an advanced stage. BCM is a strategic player and partner in this intervention intended to culminate in a masterplan for Dimbaza Industrial Park, as well as specific plans for key anchor businesses in park,” Ncokazi added.

ECDC spokeswoman Ikhona Mvaphantsi confirmed to the Dispatch last week that the ECDC was involved in the development of the “masterplan” of the Dimbaza Industrial Park and said: “Once completed, we will communicate the plan extensively.”

The ECDC is expected to co-invest in the major development.

BCM spokesman Sibusiso Cindi said BCM would only be expected to contribute on a needs basis, when an investor sets up.

“This is preceded by feasibility studies, which will be undertaken by the project drivers,” he said, adding that the ECDC was already working on a “pipeline of potential investors”.

“The upgrading of the informal settlement will contribute towards the improvement of quality of life and access to services,” he added.

“The development of the agri-businesses can contribute towards food security and will benefit the surrounding rural areas where the primary agriculture is anticipated to take place,” he said.

Public consultations are expected to be held with the communities earmarked to benefit from the project. — mamelag@dispatch.co.za