Operation Hlasela: Another failed project – now you see the money, now you don’t!

By Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

Another Operation Hlasela project in the Free State has been exposed as a disaster that will cost the Free State Development Corporation (FDC) R10 million.

In 2013 Premier Ace Magshule announced that a medical supplies project with Unicore Trading (Pty) Ltd would open in Kroonstad as part of Operation Hlasela. The project would initially have provided 150 jobs which would have been expanded to 300. Since no such facility was established, it is improbable that this loan will ever be repaid and appears to be another one of Magashule’s Hlasela tricks that make money magically disappear.

In a statement in 2010 the Free State Provincial Government indicated that Unicore in Kroonstad would manufacture medical products such as bandages, gauzes, abdominal swabs, hospital linen, uniforms, linen savers, etc. Parys was earmarked for the establishment of a full safety product manufacturing facility that would produce arc flash suits, fall arrest harnesses and belts, chemical suits, etc. Sasolburg was identified as a location for medicals product extrusion plant producing face masks, chest drains, nasal cannulae suction catheters, etc. These projects were meant to serve as “a springboard into Africa” and as suppliers to the Free State and other provincial Departments of Health.

Former MEC for the Department of Tourism and Economic Development, Mxolisi Dukwana, announced the projects in his budget speech in 2011 as a “R35 million investment of a huge high tech medical supplies manufacturing facility, Unicore, in Kroonstad. This establishment is set to provide 300 jobs once it is fully operational. This project is a pilot for other manufacturing enterprises to set up in Parys and Sasolburg, which will ultimately form part of the Free State manufacturing triangle.” Adamant not to miss an opportunity, Magashule announced this as part of his Operation Hlasela projects in 2013.

A reply to a question from the DA to the MEC for Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Sam Mashinini, indicates that the Unicore project has ceased and with it probably the R10 million non-interest bearing “soft loan” to that company by the FDC. In terms of the loan the company would only have paid the first instalment in 2021. He indicated that the depot “was since closed due to the competition against imports pricing challenges”.

The DA confirmed that this project was never operational and is just another Operation Hlasela failure along with others such as the Vrede Dairy and Diyatalawa Agri-Village projects.

The question remains whether Operation Hlasela was established to benefit the people of the Free State, or as a way of diverting money to benefit individuals who are part of the ANC’s closed crony society?