By: Sarah Anderson
Durban, 13th July 2020: Tongaat Hulett Sugar is actively partnering with 13 restitution communities overseeing 6 000 hectares across South Africa and has allocated hundreds of thousands of rands to promote sustainable land reform, support local communities and help create employment opportunities.
Tongaat Hulett Sugar Corporate Affairs Executive Nkonzo Mhlongo says the restitution projects have a strong local community element, and the company annually allocates funding to promote the social and economic wellbeing of the claimant communities. The restitution communities are administered by the Trustees or Communal Property Association (CPA) committee members on behalf of the claimants.
“We have seen excellent results, with over R11 million being paid to restitution communities in 2019, representing about 3 600 known beneficiaries, in the form of rental and a further R223 000 was paid in the form of the sugar industry interventions. These restitution projects created employment opportunities for 1 059 individuals and paid approximately R44 million in the form of wages,” she said.
In 2019, Tongaat Hulett Sugar allocated R342 000 towards the implementation of socio-economic development (SED) projects which included the renovation of offices.
Mhlongo says that over the years, funding had also been allocated towards the renovation of schools; support for vulnerable children in the respective communities through the donation of school uniforms; and other relevant educational material. SED funding has also been allocated towards the education and training of the youth in these communities. An additional R731 000 was allocated through the sugar industry. This funding was used to provide governance training for the Committee members and Trustees.
For the 2020/21 season, the sugar industry committed R14 million to build the capacity of farmers and land reform beneficiaries on matters relating to governance and agronomy. Tongaat Hulett supports such initiatives as they contribute to the viability of the farmers and restitution projects. The capacity building and training programme is conducted by the Shukela Training Centre (STC) and targets a wide range of topics including good governance with a particular focus on the barriers to good governance. It also focuses on the roles and responsibilities and the code of ethics of Trustees or CPA members.
Makhosi Cebekhulu, a member of the Ubizo CPA, said that “the workshops are excellent – the facilitators educate and emphasise the two most important themes in restitution: good governance and administration. I really liked the lecture on financial administration. Had we been exposed to such training a year after our election into office as a CPA, we would have put in place appropriate systems and we would have acquired the status of the best governed CPA”.
Ubizo community’s land was restored in 2015 and this approval resulted in the acquisition of land totalling 2 547 hectares to the value of R136 million. A total of 149 households were identified as the beneficiaries of this restituted land. In 2018, Tongaat Hulett entered into a working arrangement with the CPA which resulted in the re-establishment of some 1 749 hectares under sugarcane. The farm has a maximum production capacity of 100 000 tons. During the 2019/20 season, the farm produced some 98 000 tons of sugarcane; employed 409 people in the various roles within the farm including management, administration, planting, supervisors, cutters, herbicide operators and night watchmen. A total of R17.1 million was paid in the form of wages in 2019.
Mduduzi Nzuza, a Trustee of Izindophi Community Trust at Eshowe said that “the governance training should have been implemented a long time ago. The explanations provided on the various scenarios on governance matters were practical and relevant for our environment. In fact, we have implemented some of the techniques that we learnt during the training. We have now established sub-Committees to cascade information and accelerate implementation of projects at community level. These types of training should not be a once off – they should be ongoing. I would like to thank all the stakeholders that made such a workshop possible”.
Izindophi Community Trust officially took occupation of the land in 2003. In 2012, the Trustees entered into a working agreement with Tongaat Hulett with the objective of re-establishing the property as a productive sugarcane farming enterprise for the benefit of the community. A total of 436 hectares were re-established following the signing of the agreement. During the 2019/20 season, the farm produced some 19 000 tons of sugarcane, created 80 employment opportunities in the various part of its operation and paid R3.3 million in the form of wages.
Spha Shabalala, Land Reform, Community Dynamics and SED Manager, said that governance training is one of the key steps required to ensure the long-term sustainability of restitution. “As government continues to restore land for individuals and communities previously dispossessed, the population of restitution projects will increase in the farming space. The same is true within the sugar industry. These projects are typically located in rural areas and are critical in functioning of the rural economy. Support for their sustainability translates to a number of socio-economic positives”.
Tongaat Hulett recognises that land reform is primarily an issue of basic human rights. Under the land reform programme, Tongaat Hulett works with two categories of farmers. The first grouping is categorised as the restitution communities and the second category is classified as land reform growers farming for their own account. Typically, restitution communities acquire land, through government’s land claims process, as a group for the benefit of many beneficiaries. With regards to the land reform growers, the beneficiary is the applicant which is mostly a few individuals.
The main objective of the restitution programme is to unlock the economic benefit of the land for the previously marginalized communities. It is also to enable communities, majority being rural communities, to drive the local economic development efforts in their local municipalities. Some of the restitution communities in the sugarcane growing areas have approached Tongaat Hulett to partner with them and accelerate the implementation of the sugarcane development programme and rural development efforts. Through the restitution programme, the respective communities in partnership with Tongaat Hulett have created employment opportunities; facilitated the transfer of agricultural and administrative skills; and supported community upliftment activities.