Steel penny drops – ANC refuses to sacrifice local industry for Chinese friendship

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By Alec Hogg

Over the weekend we bumped into childhood friends from Newcastle, the town of my youth. The news wasn’t good. They told us after a cracking 2014, investment has stopped at the local ArcelorMittal steel plant, employees are being forced to take owed leave and others put onto four day weeks.

Emergency measures, while the town holds its proverbial breath while its dominant employer pleaded with Government to act against Chinese dumping of steel.

Unbeknown to the four of us, while we were swapping notes there were really positive developments in Pretoria.

On Friday, economic sector ministers Ebrahim Patel and Rob Davies huddled with the sector’s business and labour leaders.

And last night the Presidency said progress was made, tariffs are being introduced and anti-dumping measures are on the way. Also, the Industrial Development Corporation has stepped in with a R150m loan to help Russian-owned Highveld Steel, which is officially in business rescue.

Those who live in steel dependent towns, and especially eMalahleni, Vereeniging and, of course, Newcastle will breathe a little easier today.

Contrary to popular opinion, the ANC is showing it is not prepared to sacrifice local industry on the altar of Chinese friendship. Maybe the penny has finally dropped that China only does what is good for China. Especially in business.

From Biznews community member Graham Thomas:

    "I don’t think all your facts are entirely correct.

    * The IDC have only given R25 million of the reported R150 that was promised, all manufacture has been halted and no steel is currently being manufactured. Staff are waiting for the end of August to hear if one of four possible investors are actually going to take the challenge and buy, take over from the Russians, who have been “absent” since they have been in business rescue.

    * On the tariff protection, the only product that falls into that protection,, so far, is galvanised and colour – which is a very small part of the total steel range that is affected by imports. More protection may still come as it has been applied for. I think the powers that be have incorrectly portrayed to the public their support for the industry.The need to start with some meaningful stimulation of the economy to get construction and the steel sector going again in this country."

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