South Africas govenment says it has prioritised the textile and clothing sector

South Africa's govenment says it has prioritised the textile and clothing sector

The South African government has committed to protecting the country's textile and clothing industry after a wave of sector disputes this year.

During a visit to the House of Monatic factory near Cape Town, Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Rob Davies said employment in the footwear and leather sector has increased 5% between 2012 and 2014. He added that the growth has "stabilised" the industry, and enabled it to establish 11 new companies.

The South African government has prioritised the sector, Davies noted, and has been supporting the establishment of national clusters to raise competitiveness.

In addition to enterprise-level support programmes, he said the government has supported the National Fashion Council to the tune of ZAR33m (US$22.1m), the footwear and leather cluster by ZAR79m and the cotton cluster by ZAR120m.

"Our principle responsibility lies in the promotion of manufacturing in South Africa," Davies said. "I think what is important about this visit is that we are able to see concretely on the ground what are the outcomes of some of the measures which we've been putting in place as government over the last five years."

He pointed to the improvement at the House of Monatic factory, which was on the verge of shutting down five years ago. With a ZAR30m investment, the company has purchased new machinery which has improved the accuracy of cutting. 

South Africa's textile and clothing industries have been hit by a wave of disputes since the beginning of the year. Last month, the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) said it will continue preparations for a national strike ballot until clothing employers come back with an agreed wage increase.

Separately, a disagreement over wages that resulted in a national three-week strike involving up to 3,000 cotton sector workers was settled last month. 

In June, thousands of footwear workers also embarked on a protected national strike over salaries, holiday pay and re-training.