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Sol opposition up in arms over factory plans

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Opposition councillors have objected to an application to allow a surgical manufacturing factory to utilise the Skilpadsaal next to the De Beers Stadium in Kenilworth Road as a warehouse.

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OPPOSITION councillors have objected to an application to allow a surgical supplies manufacturing factory to utilise the Skilpadsaal next to the De Beers Stadium in Kenilworth Road as a warehouse.

According to correspondence dated September 16, Morgan Pillay Surgical Supplies (Pty) Ltd, manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE), protective clothing, female sanitary pads and medical accessories, identified the hall as suitable to expand their operations in Kimberley.

“We will start with an initial staff of at least 50 people and it will grow to 900 during the course of our operations,” it was started.

The company stated that Northern Cape provincial executives and the Sol Plaatje Municipality had agreed that a building would be availed to set up a manufacturing plant so that they could “start immediately”.

Council was informed that following a meeting that was held at the Premier’s Office, Sol Plaatje Municipality was requested to avail the building to the company.

On September 22, it was indicated that council had requested a valuation of the building, after which it would be presented to the Spelum committee for approval and finalisation of the lease agreement, where the rental would be levied as from October 1.

DA councillor Elize Niemann pointed out that the Premier’s Office could not dictate to council.

“Opposition parties, with the exception of GOOD, walked out of the special council meeting on November 10 to avoid rubber-stamping the application, which was never presented before the Spelum committee,” said Niemann.

“All that is known about the business proposal is that it was discussed at the Premier’s Office on September 22, where a subsequent request was made by the premier to avail the building to the company for a surgical factory/warehouse.”

Niemann added that there was a backlog of 150 other applications, dating back to 2016, that had yet to be processed.

“This particular application was approved in just over a week. The DA is not opposed to job-creating initiatives. However, we are opposed to attempts to steam-roll applications, just because they have the blessing of the premier.”

She noted that apart from the Spelum committee being “left out of the loop” in respect of the application, no feasibility assessments have been conducted.

“No conditions, including time frames, rental agreements or financial implications, were discussed. The correct procedures were not followed. Applications should not be swayed by political favours.”

Niemann proposed that alternative floor space be offered to the manufacturing company.

“The Skilpadsaal and its grounds are currently utilised for sport and recreation purposes. Other buildings, like the Roodepan multipurpose centre and the old DFA building in town are vacant and at the mercy of vandals. It would also make more sense to take job-creating projects to communities where unemployment is at its worst.”

ACDP councillor Roddy Loff believed that the ANC, “on behalf of the surgical manufacturers”, wanted to bulldoze through the decision to offer the Skilpadsaal to the company.

“An instruction was issued to Sol Plaatje Municipality to approve the application following a meeting with the premier. We are not opposing job creation but we need to avoid favouritism and political interference at all costs,” said Loff.

“This is while there is a backlog of over 200 applications dating to as far back as 2015. It should be noted that the ACDP views the issue of land very seriously, because without land our people can’t prepare for generational wealth.”

The spokesperson for the Office of the Premier, Bronwyn Thomas-Abrahams, explained that a business proposal was presented to the Northern Cape provincial government and the Sol Plaatje Municipality on how government and business could work together to create much-needed jobs.

“The jobs will change the lives of individuals and their families who will have an opportunity to earn a decent living income. The jobs that will be created will largely address the challenges of youth unemployment as a commitment has been made to get more young people employed at the factory,” said Thomas-Abrahams.

She added that the initiative also has the potential to revitalise the textile and manufacturing industry in the city.

“Presenting the request for the lease of a building for purposes of setting up the factory to the municipal council was part of the processes of the municipality and not one initiated by the premier, Dr Zamani Saul. The Northern Cape provincial government, however, supports any positive initiative that will contribute towards growing the economy of the Province, creating jobs and building sustainable communities.”

Thomas-Abrahams indicated that following the investors’ engagement with the municipality, the building was found to be suitable for the initial stages of production.

“The investors have given an indication that approximately 100 jobs will be created in the first phase, with more jobs targeted for the outer phases.”

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