Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has told the media he is seeing BMW today to discuss their recent decision to walk away from an expansion in ZA, by not building a new model at their Rosslyn plant near Pretoria. He was briefing journalists on next week’s visit to ZA by the French President, with his spokesman keen to dispel myths that this country is no longer a good place to invest. We were repeatedly told that things are better now than they were under apartheid. Davies said that he was seeing BMW after they had sent him a letter “clarifying” what they had recently said about the new investment.
He insisted: “They are continuing with operations in ZA. They had a possibility for competing for an additional model, and that was jeopardised by the recent strikes.” BMW had said the decision not to expand their operations had been taken because of the protracted strike in the automotive sector.
Davies said: “The strikes concluded with a three year agreement. We want to work with BMW to improve the investment climate from their point of view.”
He said he had met a delegation from the auto sector during the strike “and basically they are here for the long haul. Yes, we are having to work, and to compete for investments, and that is what this government is committed to doing.”
When asked about ZA unilaterally scrapping bilateral investment treaties with a number of EU countries, Davies said that these would be replaced by national legislation, but that the protection of investment is enshrined in the constitution. The EU Trade Commissioner had recently warned that ZA was at risk of losing investment through the scrapping of the treaties. The Minister tried to play down the impact of the automotive strikes on investment attractiveness, saying:
“It is not every part of manufacturing or every part of the South African economy with strikes – it was the automotive sector. The strikes are over, and over with a three year wage agreement. There won’t be a strike next year or the year after. On BMW, we thought it was important to engage the company as soon as possible. We need to put this in some perspective. A number of investment projects are on the cards, and there is not a trend where everyone is saying: we are getting out of here.”
When asked why government had not done more to end the auto sector strikes, he said that they had ended earlier than they might have done because of discussions with government. But he insisted that in a democracy, government cannot tell people not to strike, even though that might have happened under apartheid.
Tweet of the day: Puns (@omgthatspunny): I only listen to waltzes 3/4 of the time.
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