Growing the auto industry through partnerships

The Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) continues to deliver on its aim of building an inclusive economic industry. It has officially joined forces with the communities of nearby Mamelodi, Eesterust and Nellmapius, through the Community Project Committee (CPC), committing to work together to create job opportunities while at the same time building an inclusive automotive industry. This commitment was formalised on 16 February 2023 when TASEZ and the CPC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at Pretoria’s Menlyn Maine. The documents, including a social compact, detail and highlight TASEZ’s responsibilities to the local communities and their commitment to supporting the project. Based in Silverton, TASEZ is Africa’s first automotive city, a hub that provides tenants with a prime location close to an established automotive industry, links to regional and international markets, customised solutions and support services to boost business efficiency, and a number of incentive packages. As a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), TASEZ has been given the mandate to be a catalyst for employment, transformation, socio-economic development, and industry growth. Transforming the auto industry “Part of the transformation agenda is that you need to take the communities with you and broaden the economic participation,” said TASEZ CEO Dr Bheka Zulu at the signing ceremony. “The development of special economic zones must include a social element – in that you cannot develop state-of-the-art facilities within communities that are not benefiting from the project. The needs and requirements of the surrounding communities must be considered.” Among the aims of TASEZ is to provide programmes targeted at small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and for corporate social investment (CSI) programmes, along with skills development programmes, Zulu said. The construction of the first phase of TASEZ helped create 5 000 jobs, with 204 local SMMEs benefitting by procurement spend, the executive manager of business development at TASEZ, Msokoli Ntombana, noted. To date, permanent employment for 1 950 people has been secured, with the vast majority (60 to 70%) coming from local communities. “The government has invested R4.2-billion into the project and the investors that have taken occupation have invested a further R4.5-billion,” Ntombana added. A living document The terms of reference in the MoU also highlighted the communities’ commitment to making the project a success. “This is going to benefit the community greatly. We will make sure the project is a success and minimise stoppage time,” said CPC chairperson, Shiba Madonsela. Madonsela noted the MoU provided a clear agreement and partnership. “The community must know that this is a living document, and they will see the results of it. While signing this I have a feeling of joy as it bonds TASEZ and the community together.” Describing it as a milestone, Madonsela said: “With the partnership between the community and TASEZ, the economy will grow, the project will create employment opportunities, and our youth will be upskilled in fields such as robotics.” Community engagement specialist and CPC secretary Zama Ndebele described the occasion as extremely important. “History has shown that when the community and government work together a project will be a success.” He added: “This [agreement] is close to my heart. It gives meaning to how projects in the country can be managed.” It would be one of the building blocks that will lead to Tshwane becoming the automotive city. Zulu added that the partnership with the local communities was long overdue, and he was looking forward to what lies ahead. “We will travel together as partners to make this a success.” The occasion has set the tone for the relationship between the communities and TASEZ; one of partnership, respect, and a willingness to succeed.