Patel: Africa is vital to South Africa’s economy


23 April 2015

The continent is vital for the country’s economy, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has told factory workers.

“We sell R260-billion worth of goods to other African countries. That R260-billion creates more than 160 000 jobs in South Africa,” Patel said. These jobs were in clothing, car manufacturing and the selling of agricultural produce to other African countries.

Speaking at a general meeting with factory workers in Pretoria on 22 April, he warned workers that if South Africa cut the rest of Africa out of its economy and the rest of Africa cut South Africa out of its economy, people in the country would lose their jobs.

“We need to stop the attacks on fellow Africans. We need to deal with the frustrations and problems in a different way.”

The top countries to which South Africa’s clothing industry sold were Mozambique, Zambia, the US and Zimbabwe. The top countries it sold to in the footwear and leather products sector were Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. In the textiles sector, the top country to which South Africa sold was Zimbabwe.

“The attacks on foreign nationals must stop. We cannot take the law into our own hands and kill fellow human beings,” Patel said. The government was addressing the problems of South Africa, including unemployment, lack of housing, the provision of water and electricity. This included managing migration properly.

“We must make sure at our border posts, we have proper procedures. We must make sure that people have papers if they are here legally. We must make sure we manage the numbers of people who come into South Africa.”

Patel called on companies to treat all workers equally, regardless of race or whether they were foreign nationals or not. “We must make it clear to companies – don’t exploit foreign workers. Don’t pay them less than South African workers. so much so that South African workers are put aside.

“Let everybody be treated equally because the law applies to everyone equally,” he said.

He would have a meeting with the Department of Labour to request inspections of companies to ensure they were complying with labour laws.

“We are going to deal with the frustrations of our people,” Patel said. The country needed to address the people who were in the country illegally. “Foreign workers who are here legally belong in the union movement, in our churches, they belong in our communities.

“We’ve got to organise them and make them feel welcome. They are part of us,” he said.