In 2000 Government took a decision to phase out 45 000ha of forests in the Western and Southern Cape Region. In 2007 the VCON report recommended that 25 000ha be replanted. In 2014, Louis Hale Consultants did a study and made some recommendations to Government. The findings and recommendations of that study are still unknown to date.
A gap of 7 years exists between 2007 and 2014, irrespective of pleas and recommendations from within the Forestry Sector. Because there has been no replanting, there has been no growth of new trees. This will cause a shortfall in the market, if that has not already happened. Shortfalls cause an increase in the price due to the demand being bigger than the supply.
The uncertainty within communities about the potential losses has caused havoc in the lives of families. These communities are traumatized now and will be further traumatized should exit happen.
In the event of no reversal of exit, forestry workers and secondary workers will have to find work in other sectors. Due to the nature of training within forestry, these workers will have to find work as unskilled workers in other sectors, which would mean a drop in their income and this would bring about a myriad of social and economic challenges.
Forestry Contractors are also struggling to get access to credit facilities because there is uncertainty about the length of tenders. These contractors already struggling business has a very real possibility of closing down, more job losses….
- What are the reasons that Government acted so irresponsibly in allowing this gap in respect of replanting?
- What are the Hale recommendations?
- When will the recommendations be made known?
- How will communities that have been negatively impacted by exit benefit from these recommendations?
- When and how will these Hale recommendations be implemented?
With the restructuring of commercial forestry, SAFCOL decided via a tender process to invite bids. The result was 75 percent of shares in MTO were sold to a consortium. 9 percent was given to workers and 16 percent is with SAFCOL. SAFCOL and Government made a commitment that they will only keep 6 percent and 10 percent will be given to forestry communities in 2005. None, except the 75% of MTO materialized to date. What is the value of that 10 percent now?
When communities enquired from Public Enterprises about the 10 percent, they said an interdepartmental task team under leadership of the deputy director has been established. Their task was that they should look into all minority shareholding that government holds in ex-parastatals. Once this task was completed, they were to start consulting with communities.
- Was an Interdepartmental Task Team established?
- Is that still the process?
- What are Task Teams terms of reference?
- Who does the Task Team report to?
- What are the timelines? When will recommendations and findings be made available to communities?
- What will the process be for communities to access these funds?
On the one hand we have the negative impact of exit but on the other hand millions are locked up in the form of 10 percent shareholding. Because of exit strategy, communities suffer. No new job opportunities, lots of retrenchments. So many sawmills has closed.
The 10 percent shareholding could have brought, and can still bring, much needed social and economic relief to forestry communities.
Read more at ‘Development of Black Forestry Contractors’.
Press release issued by Ralph Stander, Interim Chairperson of the Western Cape Forestry Stakeholders Forum (WCFSF).