Little to show for R200m put into tea project
POLITICAL tea cups are flying again over a visit by the Eastern Cape DA leadership to the Magwa and Majola tea estates.
On November 13, the party’s provincial leader Athol Trollip was offered a cup of Magwa tea by Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane during Bhisho’s rural development portfolio committee meeting. His message was to “enjoy” the tea and “relax”.The DA claims R200-million has wastefully been poured into the state-funded, National Health and Allied Workers Union-controlled estates near Lusikisiki.
Trollip said he took Qoboshiyane’s advice and this week went in “pursuit of a cup of tea” at the estates, only to find the “cuppa was empty”.
But Qoboshiyane, in a lengthy response, accused Trollip of issuing a “lurid” statement filled to the brim with falsehoods and misinformation.
While Qoboshiyane welcomed the DA “safari”, he accused Trollip of taking a “oneday” tour during which the DA “army” “flashed their pricey cameras” instead of “listening to the issues at hand”.
Trollip however, said the situation at the estates was dire and the DA team was greeted with overgrown tea bushes which had not been picked since the start of the September-March season.
“There is absolutely no sign that any harvesting will take place this season.”
The DA team heard that workers and management at Majola had not been paid for nine months, and 13 months at Magwa. “There is no money for electricity and coal to run the antiquated factories.
“Absolutely nothing is happening here and so-called beneficiaries and workers are starving,’’ said Trollip.
“At Magwa, we spoke to desperate workers who had just collected meagre food parcels donated to them by a local grocery chain store.
“They said their status of no-pay no-work meant they could not send their children to school.” Trollip claimed workers were last paid for work done just before the elections in May last year. This was a “wages for votes scam”, he claimed.
However, workers did get their December wages, despite the production standstill. “The question which kept cropping up, was where has all the money gone?
“These plantations have received in excess of R200-million in bailouts from the state, yet their productivity and viability is worse than ever.”
Trollip said the lives of managers were threatened by a “belligerent and desperate unionised workforce”. Professional support was also “poor or non-existent”.
Qoboshiyane meanwhile said salaries had been paid to workers and that production would start soon.
“Instead of drinking the cup made for him, (Trollip) grabbed the wrong and empty cuppa and not the cup he was offered which runneth over,” said Qoboshiyane.
This month the department “paid about R3.1-million to both estates . . . for salaries”.