‘A tireless servant of the people’

2013-08-23 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL business people yesterday credited Dr Zweli Mkhize as the man who helped cement the provincial economy as the second largest in the country.

His tenure was characterised by the implementation of a large number of big projects in the province.

These included the 2010 Soccer World Cup and the construction of the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the completion of King Shaka Airport, the Dube Trade Port and the planning for the Durban dig-out port.

Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew Layman said he had great respect for the premier.

Mkhize had “engaged constructively” with the business community and was keen to do all he could to ensure there was a conducive business environment, Layman said.

“We rate his premiership highly and believe in many ways KZN has made strides during his time at the helm. He has been a tireless servant of the people, having astounded many by his energy, strong sense of commitment and his availability.”

Trix Trikam, executive director of the South African Sugar Association, said the outgoing premier should be congratulated.

Mkhize has played a central role in the province’s socio-economic transformation.

“His unflagging focus on the sustainable improvement of the circumstances of the rural poor will be a hallmark of this chapter in his career,” said Trikam.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness said Mkhize’s stepping down was not a surprise when one considered the workload of the two positions he had been juggling.

“Luthuli House’s gain is certainly a loss for the province. It has been a pleasure to work with a man of Dr Mkhize’s calibre.”

However, not everyone was as happy with the promotion of big projects during Mkhize’s tenure as premier.

South Durban Basin environmental and social justice activist Desmond D’sa said Mkhize’s tenure was characterised by a provincial government that seemed to favour business at the expense of the poor.

While it had done well to promote large projects, poor people had not benefited in terms of their participation in these projects, said D’sa.

Mkhize could also have taken a stronger stance on the protection of the manufacturing sector through the prevention of illegal imports, with thousands of clothing, textile and leather workers losing jobs due to cheaper products entering the province.

Bobby Peek, director of environment and development organisation Groundwork, said Mkhize’s premiership had its ups and downs.

“From an environmental justice point of view, the emphasis on large projects was designed for resource extraction and attracting international investment. However, the emphasis for economic development was shifting globally from one of ‘not what others can do for us [in terms of internationalisation], but what we can do for ourselves’,” said Peek, adding the low use of King Shaka International Airport was evidence of the incorrect economic development approach adopted by KZN under Mkhize’s tenure.

However, Mkhize had done well in the health sector, with initiatives including the cessation of the use of mercury in state hospitals and implementing a third National Health Insurance pilot site, said Peek.

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