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South Africa’s economic recovery plan gets going

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

A car parts manufacturing company that is owned by a black woman is on the road to success, despite only starting operations less than two years ago.

Aphelele Plastics makes car suspension bushings and washers – which are supplied to companies that deal in Volkswagens, BMWs and Audis; trolley tyres and newspaper cutting sticks.

Owner Nobuhle Gwala (53) says they make the products from polyurethane plastic material. “The polyurethane bushings and balls are used in a car’s gearbox and for the mounting of a car’s engine.

“We also make rubber newspaper cutting sticks, which are used by newspaper printing companies to separate the different newspapers as they come off the conveyor belt,” she says.

Aphelele Plastics, which was started in February 2019, currently produces around 100 bushings a day but that is set to double as Gwala’s company has received specialist manufacturing machinery and a bakkie through a government empowerment programme.

Speaking at the launch of KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs’ (DEDTEA) Operation Vula Fund, MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said: “We are handing over bakkies, bakery equipment, catering equipment, animal feed and other machinery to 12 emerging entrepreneurs. I felt it was prudent that we hand over the equipment to the beneficiaries in order to speed up economic recovery.”

She said Operation Vula is supporting:

  • 15 SMMEs that manufacture toilet paper are also being assisted;
  • 15 township and rural bakeries have been allocated R11.7 million;
  • five small enterprises that manufacture detergents and chemical cleaning products will receive R5.4 million and small businesses that fall in other sectors of the economy will share R18.3 million.

For Gwala, the bakkie and machinery provide an opportunity to better her business’s service offering.

“The clients we serve have offices in Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Pinetown. In the past, some of our deliveries would be delayed because the delivery service we were using was not available but now we will be able to deliver to clients as soon as we finish manufacturing our products,” she says.

The new machinery will improve the company’s production and this is turn will increase the number of people it employs in the next few months.

MEC Dube-Ncube says entrepreneurs like Gwala must make use of state funding programmes. “Job losses as a result of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have resulted in spiralling levels of poverty. Many people have been retrenched and condemned to rural villages and peri-urban informal settlements with no means of survival .”

She said Operation Vula would reach all corners of the province, giving people the opportunity to produce local products and services for domestic use and exports.

“Critically, we reiterate our position that the lockdown regulations, which resulted in the disruption of the global value chain, have presented indigenous people with the opportunity to be self-sufficient and produce their own goods,” she said.

Economic reconstruction and recovery plan

Operation Vula is part of government’s Economic reconstruction and recovery plan.

The plan, recently announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a joint sitting of the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly, aims to recover the two million jobs lost during the worst of the COVID-19 lockdown, as well as create jobs for those who were already unemployed. In the short-term, the plan aims to create over 800 000 jobs.

When announcing details of the plan, President Ramaphosa said: “We are determined to create more employment opportunities for those who were unemployed before the pandemic or who had given up looking for work.

“This means unleashing the potential of our economy by, among others, implementing necessary reforms, removing regulatory barriers that increase costs and create inefficiencies in the economy, securing our energy supply and freeing up digital infrastructure.”

Through programmes like the Operation Vula Fund, the State will support SMMEs in the manufacturing value chain.

“There are between 2.4 million and 3.5 million SMMEs in the country, with the largest number in the informal and micro sectors. They offer the greatest untapped potential for growth, employment and fundamental economic transformation,” President Ramaphosa says.

For more information about the Operation Vula Fund logon to www.operationvula.gov.za or call 0800 333 667.