Centre of excellence to help clothing industry


Newcastle - There is hope for a better life for the people here following the announcement that the provincial government will open a Clothing Centre of Excellence in the area.

The initiative is expected to create a number of opportunities for local residents and develop the local clothing manufacturing industry.

Economic Development and Finance MEC Zweli Mkhize revealed this during his visit to Newcastle on the third leg of his Budget Imbizo Roadshow yesterday.

He said this would help stimulate economic growth in the area.

The Centre for Excellence will run classes on skills development for the locals, to help improve their chances of employment by local firms.

"This is part of the process of ensuring that some form of development continues to take place on this part of the province," Dr Mkhize explained.

Newcastle is one of the areas that suffered severely with the collapse of the coal-mining sector in the mid 1990s.

The towns in north of KwaZulu-Natal have since earned a label of "Dying Towns", this because of a lack of commercial and economic activity.

Last year Premier Sbu Ndebele sent a delegation on a fact-finding mission to find possible solutions to the problem of unemployment in the towns that included Dundee and Ladysmith.

The establishment of the centre is seen as one of the responses to the problem of unemployment in the area.

According to head of the Economic Development and Finance Department Mel Clark-Head local firms employ over 8000 people.

"But what we have found is that the quality of the production needs to be improved in order to retain the competitive edge by the local industry and continue creating opportunities of employment."

Mr Clark told BuaNews that the construction of the centre would be catered for in the 2005-2006 budget that is to be announced on 3 March by MEC Mkhize.

The business plan has already been approved in the department.