PROVINCE MUST DECIDE ON MAJOLA TEA ESTATE ONCE AND FOR ALL

About 1 000 workers at the Majola Tea Estate in Port St Johns stand to lose their jobs after the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development failed to pay over promised funding of R5 million. It is time that the Eastern Cape government makes a firm decision about what to do with this estate to make it commercially viable. We cannot continue to pour money into this estate at the cost of service delivery. On the other hand, the government cannot continue to make promises to the estate which it does not keep.

The department confirmed that R5 million was allocated to the estate in terms of standard budget procedure within the 2010/11 financial year and would be available for use by 15 January 2011. The estate never received the funding. For the letter from the department, click here.

Due to no funds being available the estate could not purchase and apply fertiliser which resulted in major losses of production and poor quality tea, which in turn had a negative impact on projected income. A smaller number of seasonal staff was employed which translated to a loss of income of R1,8 million.

The actions by the Department of Agriculture and Agrarian Affairs are deplorable. However, the time has come for the Premier, Noxolo Kiviet to take a stand a make a clear decision about this estate. According to a reply on a question in the national parliament in November 2009, the state spent R22, 675 million on Majola Tea from 2006 to 2009. In July 2009 the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the Legislature made a recommendation that the department must look at all options, including national government to negotiate with SADC for fair trade practices (according to a SADC agreement tea is imported to South Africa from Kenya and Malawi) and to investigate the possibility of producing other crops. For the 2009 committee report and recommendations, click here.

It is two years later but the status quo remains. The Democratic Alliance urges the Premier of the Eastern Cape to make a serious and definite decision about this estate and to ensure that any decisions about the future of the estate are implemented as soon as possible.