Zuma to launch automotive plant

It is hoped the R600m plant in PE will increase foreign investor confidence in the country.

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - As the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa)'s strike continues into its second week, President Jacob Zuma will today launch a R600 million automotive assembly plant in Port Elizabeth.

The presidency says the project is part of government's intervention in manufacturing as an important sector of the economy and follows a decision by BMW not to introduce a new model to their South African operations last year.

It's hoped the plant will help increase foreign investor confidence in the country and create jobs for locals.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj says the plant will contribute significantly towards socio-economic development.

"The plant will initially assemble 5,000 trucks annually for the sub-Saharan African market. It is also of strategic importance to the country's economy in terms of generating foreign investment that in turn will create sustainable jobs and will provide opportunities for skills development and training."

Numsa has been unavailable for comment because its leaders are engaged in wage talks and its unclear if the union supports the venture.

VIOLENCE AND INTIMIDATION

A total of 111 people have been arrested since around 200,000 Numsa-affiliated members downed tools on 1 July.

The union was initially demanding a wage increase of between 12 and 15 percent, a R1,000 housing allowance, career and training opportunities for all workers and the banning of labour brokering.

The strike action, which follows a crippling strike by platinum miners that lasted five months, is expected to cost the economy over R280 million a day in lost output.

There have been widespread reports of violence, intimidation, vandalism and damage to property since the strike began.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega's office said it wanted to meet with union bosses to discuss how to hold the union accountable for violence.

Phiyega's spokesperson Solomon Makgale said they will discuss the issue of financial liability for losses incurred by companies.

At the same time, Numsa in the Western Cape says it is aware of incidents involving employers reportedly intimidating workers, who were intending to down tools.

But Regional Secretary Vuyo Lufele says they are still encouraging their members to stay home.

"What I have received so far is intimidation from employers who are intimidating those that are working in the plastic industry, telling them that they are supposed to be at work and not on strike, which is false."