SA car to 'resurrect' local vehicle assembly

Mureza's newly launched Prim8
Mureza's newly launched Prim8

Mureza Auto Company, a Johannesburg-based vehicle manufacturing start-up, is eyeing an expansion to Botswana where it plans to resurrect local car assembly and produce up to 500 units per month.

Botswana’s only vehicle manufacturer, the Hyundai assembly plant in Broadhurst closed doors on Wednesday January 12, 2000 throwing 900 citizen jobs into the street.

This was after South Africa successfully lodged a rules of origin complaint that the local plant did not qualify for favourable SACU duty provisions.

The incident has become a national sore point and a symbol of South Africa’s ‘bullying’ of the region, as the complaint was apparently to protect that country’s automobile manufacturers from Botswana competition.

This week, Mureza officials said once they hit a peak production of 1,000 in South Africa, they would look at expanding to Botswana.

The company, which boasts of being Africa’s first black-owned vehicle manufacturer, produces the Prim8 model with different specifications and engine capacities.

The vehicles are assembled from Semi-Knocked Down (SKD) kits, the same as the former Hyundai plant was putting together vehicles from.

Amongst its features, the Prim8 features a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system that has Bluetooth, satellite navigation, phone sync (both Apple and android OS), steering controls, adaptive cruise control, automatic transmission, keyless entry and air conditioning.

Mureza is targeting the regional market and plans to resuscitate another vehicle assembly plant in Zimbabwe as well. Company CEO, Tatenda Mungofa said Mureza’s strategy was to decentralise production away from the South African plant and produce more efficiently in markets from where it can sell its vehicles into the region.

“We want to stimulate industrial growth in every country that our vehicles will be sold,” he told BusinessWeek in an emailed response to questions.

“We intend to source vehicle components in Botswana for example to support localisation.” Mungofa said once the Johannesburg plant reaches 1,000 units per month a ‘significant portion’ of the production would be exported to neighbouring factories, including Botswana.

“The timeline shall be determined by uptake from the consumers,” he said.

“We would like the agreements to be in place as early as 2021.” The CEO said while the due diligence and other planning was yet to be done, the objective was for the Botswana plant to have a minimum capacity of 500 units and average employment of between 200 and 300 employees.

“This can be ramped up to 1,000 units if the demand is there,” he said.

Mungofa said the region and Africa represented a prime market for locally produced vehicles, with the advances in technology driving competitive products both in quality and performance.

“We see the biggest market that has been overlooked for vehicles.  “We also see a sleeping giant that will shock the world with innovations.

“For many years the continent had locked potential and capital seemed to be the major hurdle. “There is a mindset shift now.

“The resources are there, the people are there and more importantly the ideas are there!

“We see new and efficient energy being available, we see new industries developing and new benchmarks being set. “We believe in a better Africa and we want to do our part to drive the continent into a prosperous future,” he told BusinessWeek.

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