What was supposed to provide a proper foot in the door for small and medium-sized enterprises to South Africa’s aerospace industry has, according to the Democratic Alliance (DA), become another millstone around the neck of the South African taxpayer.
The Centurion Aerospace Village (CAV) adjacent to AFB Waterkloof has, according to a Democratic Alliance MP, had R133 million spent on it in the 12 years since its establishment was announced.
“CAV is still in concept phase and has not made any meaningful contribution to South Africa’s aerospace industry and associated job creation in the sector,” Patrick Atkinson, shadow deputy minister of economic development, said after meeting with CAV executives and officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) this week.
He was accompanied by Dean Macpherson (DA shadow trade and industry minister) and Tshwane metro councillor Randall Williams, mayoral committee member for economic development and spatial planning.
CAV was launched in 2006 by DTI to create thousands highly skilled niche jobs by capacitating local aerospace and defence companies as suppliers of choice to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Boeing, Airbus, Spirit Aviation and Labinal, Atkinson said in a statement released after the meeting.
“The reality is none of these jobs have been created and the entity’s executive management are nothing but glorified housekeepers who spend millions of taxpayers money on a project that has brought no tangible benefits to the job creation focus on which it was conceived.
“Notwithstanding clear evidence the CAV has become a DTI vanity project, the DA delegation was told only one senior official was dismissed from the company after allegations of fraud, corruption and reckless tender appointments surfaced in 2015.”
Atkinson said the CAV “has managed to secure a few tenants” adding “time is running out” because government has not released the funding needed to help the entity fulfil its core mandate.
When it was launched a DTI document described the purpose of the CAV as being a home for the development of a sustainable supplier base to the aerospace sector creating “high tech industry clusters through selection of higher levels of sub-tier supply on the basis of established core competence and established supply to higher tier suppliers, with subsequent phases offering opportunities for new SMME entrants in the aviation sector.”
This week’s DA visit follows an allegation made by Atkinson in September 2015 that the CAV was “a vacant plot of barren land, characterised by a few piles of sand and enclosed by a rusted barbed wire fence”. At that time the DTI said there was one tenant in the development – “a global supplier of aircraft components”. The DA MP said at the time the company was identified as Aerosud, which is not part of the CAV. Aerosud is headquartered on land adjacent to that of the CAV on the eastern side of AFB Waterkloof.
Atkinson will be writing to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies requesting he intervenes to ensure the CAV starts fulfilling its mandate of creating jobs and makes meaningful progress in the next six months.
“Should this intervention fail, the Minister must then consider redirecting the entity’s budget towards supporting small business players in the aerospace and defence industry who are struggling to compete with established players in local and international defence markets,” he said.