Shanghala bashes criticism on Peugeot’s assembly plant

 

Justice minister Sakeus Shanghala has taken offense at sentiment coming from South Africa that Namibia should have consulted its largest trading partner and given explanation first on the deal that led to a French car maker setting shop at Walvis Bay.

 

The minister wrote a tough-worded response last week to an article carried by the Financial Mail headlined, “SA raises concern over Peugeot’s assembly plant in Namibia”.

 

The article said the new Walvis Bay facility prompts the SA government and motor companies to raise questions over import duties and potential breaching of Southern African Customs Union rules and that South Africa needed an explanation.

 

“This smacks of some colonial hangover, if one may so,” said the minister, “Namibia is a republic distinct from South Africa since March 1, 1990. Secondly, South Africa must first remove the log from its eyes before it sees logs in the eyes of the SACU members.”

 

Shanghala was hailed by a local trade expert as being spot-on.

This was hours after President Hage Geingob shared in the thrill of test-driving a brand new locally assembled Peugeot 5008, and thus affirming the widely celebrated investment.

 

The minister said both countries needed each other “but that co-dependence should not be condescending overreach”.

 

The article also carries a quote from the director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (NAAMSA), Nico Vermeulen who remarked, “We are completely in the dark. Namibia has told us nothing. The SA department of trade and industry says it wants clarity. We have also asked SA customs authorities to investigate.”

 

But Shanghala snapped.

 

 “To publish without even mentioning which DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) official “is in the dark”, without alleging which clause is being breached by Namibia or for that matter offer the Namibian authorities an opportunity to comment is not only callous, (it) really speaks to the inarticulate premise upon which those that advanced the article perceive South Africa’s role in SACU- (that) only she can manufacture, assemble or produce anything for the rest of her neighbours.”

Shanghala watered down the criticism of the Peugeot deal as regressive which made the “dream of an Africa populated by Africans, who embrace growth and welcome progress in other African countries” a fantasy.

 

Permanent secretary and a trade expert in the trade ministry, Dr. Michael Humavindu is behind the deal and he disclosed to this publication that they had shared notes with Shanghala on the project.

 

Asked for a comment on the stance in South Africa, Humavindu suggested that the concerns of NAAMSA were immaterial as it was not the RSA government.

 

“I know that the colleagues in SACU all want regional value chain projects. If NAAMSA was pro-regional development, they would have encouraged other small sellers like Renault and Kia to follow Peugeot to Namibia,” he retorted.

 

Humavindu assured that small sellers want to assemble cars in the region but since they can’t meet the 10 000 cars production threshold of the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) incentive programme in RSA, they do not know where to go.

 

“This Peugeot plant now gives them an example of how to get in the region. Any DTI policy officer knows that RSA is the one with catalytic converters, so if smaller car companies congregate in Namibia they will, due to economics, buy the converters from RSA than say China,” said Humavindu.

 

The trade ministry official said what was imperative was to look ahead and take advantage of the plant to increase value addition in the leather and cattle business.

 

He said there are 11 000 cattle in the Kavango Cattle Ranch which could be a leather value chain not only for Peugeot but also for the RSA automotive industry.

 

“The work has just started,” he remarked.