KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, says the provincial government has entered into talks with the national government to buy the SAPREF refinery in Isipingo, south of Durban. He was delivering his State of the Province Address in Pietermaritzburg.
This comes after the refinery, co-owned by BP and Shell, announced it would close at the end of next month.
The premier also announced that the Youth Empowerment Fund will increase from R 50 million to R 100 million this year.
While the provincial government envisages prospects of economic growth and job creation, the closure of the SAPREF oil refinery and Mara’s smart phone have been set-backs.
Zikalala says government should buy the refinery.
“We are disappointed by the decision of SAPREF to indefinitely suspend refinery operations in Durban by the end of March 2022. We are of the view that retaining the refinery especially the operations of refineries in our province is key for economic growth and job creation rather than solely relying on importing refined oil for that reason. We have called on the national government to buy SAPREF not only to protect jobs but to build the capacity of the state.”
Zikalala has welcomed the R 830 million set aside in the national budget to build Umgeni Water’s Umkhomazi scheme on the South Coast.
The province will also build a R 500 million bulk water scheme at uMshwathi in the Midlands.
He says, “We welcome the announcement by minister of finance in the budget speech that an amount of R 830 million is committed to Umngeni water for the implementation of the Umkhomazi water scheme. This project will go a long way in addressing challenges in the water stressed Ugu district.”
Zikalala announced that the eThekwini Metro and the uMsunduzi Municipality in Pietermaritzburg have become the first two municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal to pilot the generation of their own electricity.
He says producing green energy can ease the load on the national grid and reduce load shedding, which has an adverse effect on the economy.
“One area that has been stifling our economic prospects is the persistent energy shortage resulting in load shedding. We are taking various steps to secure energy supply. In this regard the executive council has constituted a team to work on alternative energy generation including working with municipalities to fast-track energy generation.”
“The department of Minerals and Energy has approved the appointment of professional service providers to undertake the study. The master plan enables the municipalities to generate their own energy. eThekwini and uMsunduzi are already piloting this as part the energy plans,” he adds.
However, opposition parties have slammed Zikalala’s speech. Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) President, Velenkosini Hlabisa, says the speech was short-sighted and a repetition of old promises.
“What the premier said was very general. We were expecting the premier to tell us more in terms of fighting corruption, mention 24 employees is just a drop in the ocean. When he talked about young empowerment fund, 100 million is a drop in the ocean. More money should be injected in programmes and making our youth to be job creators.”
While the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the provincial legislature slammed the proposal that government buy the SAPREF oil refinery.
The DA’s Francois Rogers says, “Have we found out why people are leaving our province? Why big industries are leaving. Industries they are there for one thing only, that is to generate profit if they don’t run a profit then they move out. So either it is the lack of profit or there is a security problem or the cost of doing business in our province is too great. There was another prime example; the premier was telling us that government was not going to buy a petroleum company. That’s not what government should be doing, government should be creating environment in the platform for these industries can work for themselves.”
The premier also announced the return of three major Durban events, the Durban July, Tourism Indaba, and the Comrades marathon.
The three big public events were shelved after the outbreak of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the nominated AmaZulu king, MisuZulu kaZwelithini, arrived at the legislature in the middle of Zikalala’s speech, which he had to pause.
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