Protests ‘may scare off investors’
Finance, tourism & economic development MEC Oscar Mabuyane has warned protestors in areas such as Xolobeni and Mtentu on the Wild Coast, saying if they make impossible demands they will drive investors away.
He was addressing hundreds of delegates at an Eastern Cape investment conference in East London on Tuesday.
Mabuyane said: “As I speak three major projects on the eastern side of our province worth billions and with a potential to create thousands of jobs have been delayed through a number of protests. I can mention Xolobeni, Umzimvubu dam and the N2 Wild Coast Mtentu bridge.
“This can’t be right.”
He identified poor leadership, absence of an integrated approach and social facilitation, and “the need for us to have a clear plan for localisation and beneficiation when such projects are initiated” as areas that needed his attention.
A few months back, Xolobeni anti-mining activists won a case in court, as they are adamant they had not been consulted properly for mining to happen in their area.
At the Mtentu bridge site last week, community protests resulted in the cessation of construction as the engineering consortium pulled out of the contract citing safety concerns. The bridge forms a critical part of the N2 Wild Coast development vision – a multibillion-rand road that will link the Eastern Cape with KwaZulu-Natal in two hours less than the current route.
“If you listen carefully to the views of the residents on these projects they are more about concerns on beneficiation and localisation than not being receptive to development. And people have a right to demand answers on these critical factors as they are the owners of the land, hence they have to benefit. But in doing so, they must not drive investors away by presenting excessive demands,” he added.
The conference was attended by would-be investors from major Eastern Cape-based companies such as Mercedes-Benz SA and Johnson & Johnson, as well as development heavyweights such as presidential investment envoy Mcebisi Jonas, Cogta MEC Fikile Xasa and Bhisho deputy speaker Mlibo Qoboshiyane.
“Investors invest their money to make profits. In return they create jobs, which are critical in our quest of a better life for all. Makubekho intsebenziswano enesidima nentembeko kungenjalo uphuhliso namathuba emisebenzi ayohambela phaya kude kweliphondo lethu acele ithamsanqa [there has to be common understanding and mutual respect, or investors will go elsewhere],” said Mabuyane.
The conference comes a few months after BCM municipal workers embarked on a wage protest that resulted in the torching of an electricity supply centre and expensive rubbish compactor truck, and a buildup of refuse for weeks on end.
In his keynote address at the same conference former economic development MEC Jonas said investors were looking for basic things such as clean, safe environments, good schools, healthcare, and clean beaches.
Mabuyane said provincial government would insist that municipalities develop incentives that are designed to attract investors.
“Issues of municipal tariffs, long delays in processing applications for construction plans should be not be a deterrent for investment attraction in our province,” he added.
The province’s main roads network has improved remarkably in the past five years, as the state continues to inject billions through Sanral. Mabuyane said improving the roads network had a particular focus on trade routes...