Call for Eastern Cape to reduce reliance on motor industry

Vehicles line up to catch the customer’s eye at a car dealership.
Vehicles line up to catch the customer’s eye at a car dealership.

The Eastern Cape provincial government is sitting on a ticking time bomb with an economy that is overly dependent on the automotive industry.

Political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni said this was highly risky because, should one of the large vehicle manufacturers pull out, “what is the Eastern Cape left with?”

The Mount Ayliff-born academic was discussing how the largely rural province could benefit now that President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the ANC would support an amendment to Section 25 of the constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.

He said it was important for the provincial government to consider venturing into the green revolution and tourism.

“When you talk of East London and Port Elizabeth, their overdependency on the automotive industry and related services is a huge risk,” Fikeni said.

“What if Mercedes-Benz and VW and other related industries say ‘we are leaving’?

“That is why agro-processing and tourism are key, as is using our heritage for tourism.”

According to the land audit of 2017, statistics show that of the land that is under control of the state in the province, 4,800,000ha (28%) is communal – meaning it is under control of traditional leaders.

“You could announce you are embarking on a green revolution and a tourism revolution and reset the button of your entire industry,” Fikeni said.

“We already have land lying fallow. We already have livestock roaming the streets.

“You could easily [develop] this before you even start with the expropriation of land.

“Pushing for a green revolution would be most profitable.

“This means focusing on agriculture, markets and the whole value chain.”

Fikeni said the province could also capitalise on being a producer of world-class red meat, as it had the largest stock of livestock in the country.

“If you were to deal with fencing off that livestock and have a plan of grazing management, the province would turn around,” he said.