Coega under fire for ‘not helping create jobs’

Bay political bosses claim development corporation is operating in isolation, needs injection of new energy

Nelson Mandela Bay’s political bosses have hit out at the Coega Development Corporation, accusing it of operating in isolation from the city’s collective efforts to create jobs.
They said the corporation – one of the government’s flagship state-owned companies, often hailed as among the bestperforming – must help the city by making more of an effort to create jobs, particularly targeting poor communities.
This was the response that met Coega’s business development manager, Dr Keith du Plessis, after he detailed plans for the special economic zone which include aquaculture, maize milling and animal feed processing projects.
The construction of a desalination plant which would yield 3,000 jobs, a stainless steel smelter and a 3,000-megawatt gas-to-power station are also among the plans.
The projects are expected to cost billions and create hundreds of jobs, with the stainless thin-strip mill expected to create 5,000 downstream jobs.
At a meeting where some of the city’s agencies and the Coega Development Corporation presented their plans and successes for megaprojects in the metro, infrastructure and engineering political head Andile Lungisa said Coega CEO Pepi Silinga had been at the helm for too long.
Lungisa said there was a need to inject fresh energy into the corporation.
He said in light of the fact that the land on which the corporation was built had been given free by the municipality, it made sense that it should carry the aspirations of the city.
Lungisa said the presentation by Du Plessis lacked detail on development and how it benefited local residents.
“There is also a political issue which must be addressed.
“People at Coega have overstayed their welcome.
“There is no energy and drive in Coega.”
He said he would have liked to hear more about what factories had been built and how that had assisted residents in Motherwell and Wells Estate.
Coega’s business model needed to be revisited, he said.
Coega spokesperson Dr Ayanda Vilakazi responded that Coega had created 112,974 jobs since its inception and boasted a collection of investors who had injected billions into the industrial zone.
“Out of all the SEZs in South Africa, the CDC is the most successful in terms of performance, and has won numerous awards over the years as the top-performing public service company in South Africa.”
The session between mayor Mongameli Bobani, members of his mayoral committee and municipal officials was intended to expose potential investors to the city’s current and future projects.
Some of the investors could not attend as their flights were delayed. Other presentations were made by the Mandela Bay Development Agency, Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism and East Cape Showcase.
Budget and treasury political head Mkhuseli Mtsila said it was a concern that Coega operated in isolation from the city, while the EFF’s Zilindile Vena described the presentation by the corporation as clumsy.
“We don’t have any insight about what you are doing in terms of stimulating economic growth,” Vena said.
“I am not sure if there are programmes that you are running [but] there is no alignment in terms of what we are doing as a city.”
Vena said Coega, which houses several companies in the special industrial zone, could not compare itself with Volkswagen SA with regard to job creation.
“You pride yourself with only 7,000 jobs and when you try to make that thing look nice, you compare yourself with one international company called VW whereas you house [about] 43 companies there.”
Coega board member and council chief whip Bicks Ndoni said these were the views of individual councillors – and that they were unfortunate.
“The councillors need to get the whole view through an extensive presentation to the council or portfolio committee.
“It was unfortunate that the guy who was there was not very senior.
“A lot of work has been done by Coega. In comparison with other SEZs, Coega is seen as making good progress.
“Coega has not underperformed,” Ndoni said.
“Many people have come here and are praising Coega in terms of investment.
“It has really exceeded expectations.”
Asked if Coega was an efficient development partner of the municipality, he said there was constant communication between the two institutions.
He declined to comment on Silinga’s tenure.
“[Pepi] is the longest-serving CEO in the country, but I can’t be speaking on the matter outside of the board that I sit on,” Ndoni said...

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