Storm in a teacup at Bhisho meeting: Daily Dispatch

DA MPL Athol Trollip yesterday refused a cup of Magwa tea from Eastern Cape rural development MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane amid discussions around the controversial estate.

Qoboshiyane yesterday brought a box of Magwa tea to the legislature’s rural development portfolio committee meeting where he planned to give Trollip a taste of what Magwa’s produce, which he described as one of the best in the country, tasted like.

Trollip has been vocal about the unsustainability of the Lusikisiki tea estate. He recently lambasted government’s plans to give more millions in bailout to the troubled estate.

According to the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency’s annual report, R14-million was spent on Magwa between April last year and March this year. A R62-million bailout was given to Magwa in 2011-12.

The Daily Dispatch reported last month that the embattled estate, together with neighbouring Majola tea estate, had again asked for a R66-million state bailout in order to keep business alive.

If the request for additional funding is granted, this will bring the amount invested in the failed estates, to more than R200-million in five years.

Tabling his administration’s 100 days in office report recently, premier Phumulo Masualle said rescue processes were under way, and that administrators would be appointed for these two estates.

Qoboshiyane’s spokesman Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha yesterday said his MEC’s gesture was aimed at giving Trollip a taste of what Magwa produced.

He said Qoboshiyane had this week signed a “cabinet memo” to the provincial executive council presenting the business rescue process for both Magwa and Majola.

However, the DA leader was not impressed. He refused to accept Qoboshiyane’s cup of tea, saying he would have to do more than pulling “publicity stunts” to rescue Magwa.

“There have been numerous undertakings by past premiers and MECs to buy Magwa tea for all government departments but this has not happened to date.

“As I said before, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Typically the MEC is boasting a business rescue plan that has not even been approved or funded. The track record in this regard is so pathetic that no one can blame my scepticism,” Trollip said.

He added that the history of Magwa illustrated that those responsible for its management were not competent to steer it to sustainability. “Until they are held responsible for performance, they will continue to sip from the cup of state subsidy, and for me, this is what makes Magwa tea taste so bitter,” said Trollip.

– Asanda Nini