Free State’s unique features outlined during Dukwana’s address

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The Free State Provincial Premier Mxolisi Dukwana has shone a spotlight on the unique features the province has which can be utilised to make more money.

Amongst the features that Dukwana shared, he stated that most districts within the province now offer unique possibilities for mining with different mineral deposits being discovered daily.

“Another area that must never escape our psyche is opportunities that could flow from revitalising old mining towns in the province.”

Outlining how he aims to spend the 2023/24 budget for the Office of the Premier, he said the province offers South Africa a unique selling value proposition.

He shone a light on the fact that the province shares borders with six other provinces and the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. Five major national highways intersect the centrally located province which is also well served by rail and air links.

The Free State produces significant proportions of South Africa’s wheat (30%), sunflowers (45%) and maize (45%). The N3 is South Africa’s busiest road and the Highway Junction truck stop at the entrance to Harrismith claims to be Africa’s biggest. More than 1 500 vehicles pass through every day. The country’s two great highways pass through the province. The N3 links the ports of Richards Bay and Durban with the industrial heartland and the N1 provides north-south connectivity.

The question remains, how does the provincial government plan to make money from the abovementioned?

The Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Destea) led by MEC, Thabo Meeko, has previously announced plans to revitalise the Phakisa Raceway in Welkom, including a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), and a cargo airport – all falling under the Matjhabeng Local Municipality. The Matjhabeng Local Council has reportedly greenlit the FDC to source investors for the facility. Meeko says the “revitalisation of Phakisa will create both direct and indirect jobs in the area. It will also serve as a nucleus around which the broader Phakisa Development Node will be built”.

The department has made a commitment to reform factories in the Phuthaditjhaba Industrial Park with the aim of fighting the high rate of unemployment in the area. Meeko announced that the 10 factories based in Qwaqwa have the potential to create over 500 new jobs. The factories in question already have a number of new clothing and textile industrialists who have applied to locate in the Industrial Park. “The provision of both financial and non-financial support to SMMEs by the department remains key towards achieving economic growth, transformation, and job creation,” he added. The Free State Development Cooperation (FDC) spent over R2.7 million in rental incentives at its Industrial Parks and over 25 SMMEs benefitted from this incentive.

The plans by Destea were, however, received with a different view from the opposition party. The FF Plus in the province said they are waiting in anticipation to see how the Phakisa Raceway in Welkom will be repurposed by the Gambling Liquor and Tourism authority. The statement was made by FF Plus leader in the province, Armand Cloete, during his Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Destea) budget debate.

In 2021, Phakisa Raceway was listed among five key infrastructure projects in the province, which were scrutinised to see if they are yielding tangible fruits. This was as the head of the Infrastructure and Investment in the Presidency, Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, descended upon the province to inspect the progress thereof.  The other four key infrastructure projects were the Bram Fischer International Airport Node Project outside Bloemfontein; the Botshabelo Industrial Park; the Homsek Dairy and Sinayo Group; and the Virginia Gas Project.

OFM News/Tshehla Koteli