The Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal is concerned by the news that the R1.5 billion Mara Cell Phones Manufacturing facility, located at Dube Tradeport Special Economic Zone, will soon be up for auction.

Touted as a “proudly African” company – at a launch by President Cyril Ramphosa in 2019 – the company was initially funded by Standard Bank and the Industrial Development Company.

Ironically, the news of the failure of this so-called flagship project comes just hours before the President is set to deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) where he will no doubt announce the roll out of equally ambitious plans in our province.

The demise of Mara Cell Phones should serve as a stark reminder to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cohorts that political upheaval spares no one. Not even companies he personally helped launch. Then there are the hundreds of jobs that will be lost as a result of this closure.

What we are witnessing in KZN is a perfect storm. This as ANC political instability, the July 2021 riots and a subsequent depressed economy have all helped tip the Mara Cell Phone manufacturing facility into the abyss.

The question is: If the President can’t keep one smartphone manufacturing factory up and running, how will he ever fulfil his ongoing promises of so-called smart cities across the country?
KZN’s track record in attracting and retaining big business is far behind that of the Western Cape, which boasts dedicated business attraction and retention offices in the form of Wesgro, the provincial investment agency.

Compounding the situation in KZN is the Durban Port and associated roads infrastructure, with international companies avoiding the lengthy delays and opting for alternate points of export.
But perhaps Mara’s biggest competitor was government itself. Our core economy is not just the victim of Covid-19, but also an ANC government that flip flops from communist rhetoric to capitalist tendencies when it suits the electorate being spoken to.

The ANC would be well served to stop bandying about talk of a Fourth Industrial Revolution and instead start providing the enabling environment for business to survive.

South Africans should never forget how ANC internal factions destroyed the economy and cost thousands of jobs in July 2021. All for one man, Jacob Zuma. The closure of the Mara plant is another key indicator of the ANC’s inability to govern properly.

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Heinz de Boer, MPL

Heinz de Boer, MPL, is the Democratic Alliance KZN Spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

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