Mark Steele, MPP
Member of the DA in the KZN Legislature / DA Constituency Leader Ugu
The proposed Special Economic Zones Bill was discussed at a public hearing held on Thursday, 14 November at the Uvongo Town Hall. The Bill presents significant challenges and opportunities for the Ugu District in general and for HCM and Umdoni in particular.
The Bill provides for three categories of Special Zone – a free port, a free trade zone or a sector development zone. It is the third category which is most relevant because it will allow for the designated zone to focus on the development of a specific sector or industry through appropriate infrastructure, incentives and business services.
For the Ugu municipalities the focus has to be on developing tourist infrastructure and services. The frustration felt by many in the local business sectors, that the area has been ‘sidelined’ by Province in recent years, and the crisis of unacceptable levels of unemployment in the region must be addressed with the urgency it deserves.
The Bill is enabling legislation in that it creates opportunities for the different levels of government to cooperate in bringing about development initiatives. Section 23 states that national, provincial and local government entities can ‘acting alone or jointly’ apply to the Minister for a specified area to be designated as a Special Economic Zone.
Clearly the Dube Trade Port fits the model proposed in the Bill and will probably be designated as a Special Zone. But if the Ugu region is to benefit fully from the Bill in terms of its tourism facilities and market it will have to work with Province in terms of an application which may have to include the wider provincial priority of developing tourism more broadly.
The hearing identified the need to strengthen the roles of provincial and local municipal governments in this process. The Bill will create a national Advisory Board with all its associated bureaucracy and the process of applying and approving special economic zones may be another central government proposal which gets caught up in endless delays and lack of delivery. We trust that the NCOP portfolio committee will be open to suggestions from the provinces that will strengthen the role of local entities and local initiatives.