Mpumalanga gears for economic success

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

If any of the ambitious projects such as the Maputo development and Moloto development corridors were successful, the economy of Mpumalanga could really boom.

If, as announced by Mpumalanga Premier Thabang Makwetla on Monday, the envisaged railway line succeeds in linking the province with Limpopo and Gauteng, economic activity will increase.

With current mining activity in northern Limpopo and the planned establishment of industries in the former KwaNdebele linking it to Gauteng by way of a railway line, the two poorer provinces - Limpopo and Mpumalanga - will reap economic dividends.

Makwetla, who on Monday paid a courtesy visit to Sowetan and SundayWorld offices, briefed the editorial management team led by editor-in-chief Thabo Leshilo. The meeting was also attended by Sowetan and Sunday World publisher Bongani Keswa.

The premier explained the progress made in Mpumalanga's five flagship development projects. The projects are: the accelerated capacity-building programme, water-for-all programme, heritage programme, greening Mpumalanga and tourism programme, the Maputo development and Moloto development corridors.

He said capacity-building projects were meant to provide skills training for middle and senior managers in the areas of finance and strategic management. Of the ten batches of senior managers who will be trained, five have already completed the first module.

The training on this comprehensive programme started last year after a 2004 survey found that most managers in the province lacked necessary skills. Makwetla also said a training centre for public servants will soon be established.

The Moloto development corridor's rail project will also benefit Limpopo because plans have been mooted for the line to traverse former KwaNdebele and stretch up to Sekhukhuneland in Limpopo. The rail project is seen as a job-creating project. Goods will be ferried to and from Limpopo's mining areas.

Makwetla said the first phase of the feasibility study released in April for the R11,2billion Moloto project, indicated that the Kuduspoort-Siyabuswa section is feasible for development. A final report is expected in November. Makwetla said a budget will be provided next year to kick-start the development.

The project is aimed at reducing traffic pressure and accidents on the notorious Moloto Road.

Makwetla conceded that not much progress has been made in the Maputo development corridor. But the project, which will see the reactivation of the railway line between Maputo and South Africa, will be rejuvenated.

Besides the rail infrastructure, the project will join the N4 road to Mozambique and link it to the Port of Maputo to drive the industrial development agenda. It includes the building of an industrial park and a dry-dock.

The line was destroyed during the war between the ruling Frelimo and rebel Renamo.

The premier boasted that with its grassland and wetland areas consisting of 270 lakes surrounding Ermelo, Mpumalanga had the biggest freshwater sources in southern Africa.

"These need to be preserved," said Makwetla.

He said with its heritage and greening initiative, the province wanted to promote environmental management and awareness so as to keep the present pristine environment intact. It is not sufficient to concentrate only on recreation. The objective now is to expose the area's exotic culture through diversified cultural tourism.

The provincial government has set a target date of 2010 to ensure that all towns, villages and homesteads have a water supply under the water-for-all project. The R3,8billion project will benefit 171000 households that are without water. An additional R1billion still has to be raised to cover the shortfall.

Makwetla highlighted the problem of illegal immigrants - mainly from Mozambique and Swaziland - who have flooded the province in the past few years. He said that there were villages in the province that were inhabited exclusively by foreigners who had become a burden and were stretching state resources.

He said the national government has to come up with a plan detailing how the provinces should handle the issue.

Other developments include the improvement of the road infrastructure to support the expansion of the coal industry which Makwetla said is currently in production overdrive.

Makwetla dismissed rumours that he will be leaving office this year, before the end of his term.

He also rejected claims that he had submitted a letter of resignation to President Thabo Mbeki requesting him to relieve him of his duties as premier.

"We are trying to find out where this came from. It's a total construct," said Makwetla.

Leshilo briefed Makwetla on the latest developments in the media. He said the media in South Africa was facing difficult times. The fall-out from the Sunday Times articles on Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has left the media divided, said Leshilo.

On Friday SABC withdrew its membership of the South African National Editors' Forum in protest at what it said was the vilification of the health minister.

Leshilo emphasised that the media worked according to the laws of the country and the constitution, and rejected the notion that it was against the state as implied by the SABC.