Trade: A dangerous cocktail

A dangerous cocktail: Apartheid hangover and the effects of trade liberalisationRudi Dicks

During the heyday of Apartheid, the government created many black townships on the dusty outskirts of city centres. The creation of these townships was driven by the policy of forced removals – forcing black people out of the city centre for the creation of exclusive white and black areas. This was one of the key tenets of Apartheid – the separation of black and white people in all facets of life.One of the townships created was Atlantis. Established as a coloured township in the 1970s, Atlantis is situated on the West Coast approximately 60 km away from central Cape Town.

Inhlanganisela eyingozi!Abasebenzi basemalokishini anjenge-Atlantis, Isithebe kanye neDimbaza babhekene nokulahlekelwa imisebenzi kanye nempilo yobubha ngenxa yenqubomgomo yangemuva kukahulumeni wobandlululo. Le nqubomgomo yavulela umhlaba umnotho futhi yaqeda ukuxhaswa kanye nezikhuthazi ezinkampanini ezisemalokishini njenge-Atlantis. Ukulahleka kwemisebenzi kwalandela kuwo wonke la malokishi kanti nezinga lokungasebenzi lakhuphuka. U-David Parring, igosa leNumsa eTedelex e-Atlantis, uthi uma uhulumeni engenzi lutho ukuvimbela ukungena kwezimpahla ezishibhile ezithutheleka ezimakethe zaseNingizimu Afrika, naye uzolahlekelwa umsebenzi!

Lured by jobsDavid Parring and his family moved there in the mid ’70s lured by the thirst for jobs. In Atlantis, like Isithebe and Dimbaza, the Apartheid government developed an employment creation strategy, premised on an incentive-based industrial strategy approach. It lured companies to the area by offering them subsidies and enterprise development.

One of the major companies that invested in Atlantis was Tedelex, an electronics manufacturer of television sets, radios and other electronic components. Parring started working at Tedelex about 24 years ago. He is currently employed as a fault-finder at the company. In 2003 he was elected as a Numsa shopsteward. Parring is one of the few remaining workers still employed at the company.

While the political end of Apartheid in 1994 brought about new rights for workers, it also introduced a dangerous cocktail to workers in townships like Atlantis. The government dropped tariffs on locally produced goods to open up trade with the rest of the world.

At the same time it cut back on the subsidies and incentives it had given to companies in areas like Atlantis. In 1995 his company, Tedelex, employed about 1500 workers. With trade liberalisation, cheap imports of radios began to flood the local market and this was worsened when the government subsidies and incentives dried up.

Production lines close

“˜n Gevaarlike resep!As gevolg van die beleid van die post-apartheidsregering staar werkers in townships soos Atlantis, Isithebe en Dimbaza afdankings en “˜n lewe van armoede in die gesig. Hierdie beleid het die ekonomie aan die wíªreld oopgestel, en subsidieí« en aansporingsmiddele aan maatskappye in townships soos Atlantis gestaak.

In al hierdie townships was verksverliese die gevolg, en die werkloosheidsyfer het die hoogte ingeskiet. David Parring, Numsa-vloerbeampte by Tedelex in Atlantis, síª dat as die regering nie binnekort iets doen om te voorkom dat goedkoop ingevoerde goedere SA se market oorstroom nie, sal hy ook sonder werk sit!

The company had to close down the production lines of radios and car radios and with this went hundreds of jobs. Today the company only employs about 300 workers.

Now says Parring, television production faces severe threats on two fronts. Cheap, low quality television sets from China continue to flood the local market.

On the other hand tube televisions, which Tedelex produces, are no longer popular since the introduction of LCD technology.

“Our problems will be worsened if there is more liberalisation or if there is no proper strategy to save jobs and protect vulnerable manufacturing industries. Government must support companies that employ more workers,” says Parring.

He and his colleagues don’t understand why there is so much pressure from other big countries such as the US and European countries to cut tariffs and lower support for key job creating industries … “we have already felt the consequence of this; we have already lost 1200 jobs in this factory over the past 12 years.”

Cocktail e kotsi!Basebetsi makeisheneng a jwalo ka Atlantis, Isithebe le Dimbaza ba tobane le tahlehelo tsa mesebetsi le bofuma ka baka la leano la ka mora puso ya aparteiti.Leano lena le butse moruo lefatsheng mme la emisa disaposidi le mesebetsi dikhampaning tse makeisheneng a jwalo ka la Atlantis. Ditahlehelo tsa mesebetsi di ile tsa latela makeisheneng ana ohle mme sekgahla sa tlhokeho ya mesebetsi le sona sa hola. David Parring, shopsteward ya Numsa mane Tedelex e Atlantis, o re ha mmuso o sa etse ho hong ka potlako bakeng sa ho thibela ditswantle tse theko e tlase hore di se ke tsa tlala mebarakeng ya mona Afrika Borwa, le yena o tla fellwa ke mosebetsi!

Unemployment at 50%”Our community had become dependent on the companies that existed,” says Parring. “Now with so many closures and job losses at my company and others, workers have to travel to industrial areas in Cape Town for work.

We now have an unemployment rate of about 50%, mostly amongst youth and women. This unemployment amongst the young men and women bears a social cost; we now have increasing drug abuse and crime in the community.”

Parring says that he is not sure what is happening now at the trade negotiations but knows that if the government does not do something to prevent cheap imports from flooding South Africa’s markets, he will also be out of work soon.

“We have tried everything to save our jobs and our community from poverty; if we don’t do something soon, then it will once again resemble the small bushes with dusty plains that we found when we moved here.”

(Rudi Dicks is a Cosatu policy coordinator)