Dube TradePort says it cannot comment on Mara Phones’ business management performance

Mara Phones will supply the department of health with 500 locally made Mara X smartphones to boost its fight against Covid-19. Photo: File

Mara Phones will supply the department of health with 500 locally made Mara X smartphones to boost its fight against Covid-19. Photo: File

Published Feb 17, 2022


DURBAN - Dube TradePort Corporation said it was aware of the challenges faced by tenant Mara Phones South Africa (Pty) Ltd, but could not speak about its performance.

This comes after Mara Phones went viral on social media last week for allegedly going bust despite receiving hundreds of millions of rand in funding.

In a statement, Dube TradePort said although it strived to promote and defend the legitimate business interests of all its tenants, it could not comment on their management performance.

“We are aware of media reports of allegations being levelled against Mara Phones with regard to unfair labour practice. Dube TradePort is committed to safe, healthy and fair working conditions for all employees within our tenants’ operations in compliance with labour laws and regulations,” the statement read.

Dube TradePort said it provided a strong locational, infrastructural and operational environment for investors, and was in full support of the Industrial Development Corporation’s (IDC) position to support the continued sustainability of Mara Phones by pursuing investment from interested parties.

The statement further stated that Dube TradePort conducted its operations with honesty, integrity and openness and with respect for the human rights and interests of all stakeholders.

“As a catalyst for economic development within KwaZulu-Natal, we are committed to realising our mandate to provide leading-edge spatial planning and infrastructure and to attract and sustain investment through the creation and operation of a special economic zone,” it said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa tours the Mara Phone Manufacturing Plant during the launch in Durban.The Mara Group announced plans to manufacture affordable smartphones in South Africa at the inaugural South African Investment Conference held in October 2018. Siyabulela Duda (GCIS)

In a statement issued last week, IDC spokesperson Tshepo Ramodibe said Mara Phones had launched its operations in South Africa in 2019, after which it established a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in the Dube TradePort, KZN.

The total funding for the project, which was intended to create 450 jobs over five years, was R492 million. As a senior lender, the IDC approved total facilities amounting to R238 million. Mara Phones shareholders were not able to raise their full contribution and the shortfall was provided by another local financial lender.

“Production at the KwaZulu-Natal facility ... was disrupted in early 2020 owing to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and the hard lockdown. Consequently, the production volumes were impacted and were below target,” Ramodibe said.

“Despite the quality of its products, Mara Phones struggled to penetrate the South African market in which other global brands and other lower-cost smartphone competitors are firmly entrenched. In addition to battling to meet its production targets, the business was adversely affected by business disruptions in the wake of the pandemic after which the company ceased its operations in July 2021.

“Regrettably, the IDC has established that in the absence of further capitalisation of Mara Phones, there is no case to be made to inject further debt funding into the company. Notwithstanding this, the IDC is exploring other options given its developmental mandate and other options that interested parties may offer,” Ramodibe added.

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