Address by President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the Alusaf Hillside Smelter, Richards Bay

19 April 1996

Chairman and Managing Director of Alusaf;
Your Royal Highness, King Zwelethini;
Distinguished guests from South Africa and abroad:
Ladies and gentlemen.

There can be few things as exciting as seeing bold plans of strategic moment come to fruition. I was fortunate enough to see this mammoth plant at an earlier stage. When such an immense project is completed months ahead of schedule; well inside budget; and with an exemplary safety record it is an accomplishment in which everyone involved can take great satisfaction.

It is therefore a great privilege to share with you in the official opening of a plant which holds so much potential for our country. Congratulations! Your achievement has done South Africa proud. It has justified the co-operation from those beyond our shores and their faith in our capacity.

So it is with pride that I welcome our distinguished foreign visitors to our country. We are pleased too that the International Primary Aluminium Institute has chosen South Africa as the venue for its 49th Annual General Meeting next week. There can be no better demonstration than this, of the confidence that our partners abroad have in South Africa's economy and its future.

Ladies and gentlemen;

The ultimate yardstick by which we must measure our efforts is the extent to which they promote sustained economic growth and development, create jobs and eliminate poverty.

Today our country is gaining an asset which has great potential to take us forward in that direction.

By using energy generated from our abundant supplies of coal to produce aluminium, the smelter will contribute to the drive to add more value to our primary products before export. It will also assist the job creation effort, while adding at least R1,5 billion per year in net foreign exchange earnings.

This firm orientation towards exports in a competitive world market represents a courageous investment in our country's future. It is strongly in harmony with Government's policy of opening our economy to the world.

The major employment potential of this venture lies downstream in manufacturing aluminium-based products; and it is very great. We must make the most of this opportunity.

For its part Government is creating a framework for the promo- tion of industry clusters based around such large capital-intensive enterprises. To this end, we are also developing measures to improve their competitiveness, including giving prominence to human resource development, work organisaiton and technology upgrading.

Business, for its part, has made a start in realising the downstream potential, through Hulett Tongaat's investment in a rolling mill that will use a third of Hillside's capacity.

However, the larger producers need to be actively engaged in the development of downstream activities, both through the supply of competitively priced aluminium and also the creation of an enabling environment for small and medium enterprises in aluminium fabrica- tion. Alongside this, we should ensure that the workplace is true to the non-racial and democratic ideals of the new South Africa.

The transformation of Richards Bay over nearly three decades, from a small fishing village to what it is today gives us a glimpse of what lies ahead, as the potential created by this major investment is realised.

In this regard, we are also encouraged by Alusaf's proposal for a similar project in Maputo, with a smelter that could in time equal the capacity of Hillside. The impact of Mozambique's economy, ravaged by years of apartheid destabilisation, would be substantial; and it would make a significant contribution to the integrated development of our region as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen;

The benefits which can be reaped from Hillside, great as they are, depend also on a climate of peace and stability in this Province. I am confident that people of goodwill, irrespective of party, will work together to find solutions through discussion. In that way we will help to ensure that this bold investment is just the start of still greater things for KwaZulu/Natal and the country as a whole.

Mr Chairman;

What we see here today awakens great admiration and respect.

It is a remarkable achievement, wrought from courageous decisions, skill and ingenuity in design and construction; and the creative power of labour.

It inspires confidence in the future of South Africa.

It is therefore a great honour for me to declare the Hillside smelter officially "open".

Issued by: The Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website