The land claims at Komatiland Forests‚ a subsidiary of South African Forestry Company Limited (Safcol)‚ threatens the viability of current operation‚ with 61% of the plantation being claimed by more than 50 groups of people‚ MPs were told.
The Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises heard this during a briefing at Safcol’s office in Sabie‚ Mpumalanga‚ according to a statement issued by the parliamentary news service.
Safcol Acting General Manager for Forests‚ David Mbulaheni‚ said that Komatiland Forests wants the land claims process to be expedited.
He added that the company was ready to provide training and development for claimants to ensure sustainability of its forests.
“Safcol has undertaken to cooperate fully with the regional Land Claims Commission in order to speed up the land claims process. We will focus on cementing a mutually beneficial relationship between the company and communities where we operate‚” he said.
The Select Committee visited the company as part of its week-long oversight visit to the province.
Their visit was seemingly boycotted by the company's executive.
"The Committee was not impressed that all the board members as well as the Chief Executive Officer and Group Chief Operations Officer were not present at the meeting. For this reason‚ the Committee decided not to ask questions about the presentation‚ saying that they felt undermined by the board‚" the parliamentary statement said‚ noting: "It will invite them to Parliament".
Committee Chairperson Ellen Prins‚ however‚ praised the company’s transformation agenda of 57% black representation at senior management level of which 28% must be women. “Komatiand Forests provides a good example to other companies about real women empowerment. It is pleasing to know that a successful company with impeccable financial records has a black female as Chief Executive Officer‚” said Ms Prins.
In a separate meeting‚ the Committee also met with the mayor and management of the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality‚ land claimants and traditional leaders.
"It became clear during the meeting that Komatiland Forests does not have a good working relationship with the municipality and traditional leaders‚" the statement said.
The municipal mayor‚ Ms Selina Mashego‚ and a traditional leader‚ a Mr Mnisi‚ accused the company of not making meaningful community infrastructural investment in things such as roads‚ schools‚ clinics‚ skills development and bursaries. They also said that Safcol needed to empower local people economically through preferential procurement on projects such as harvesting.
However‚ Mbulaheni told the Committee that Safcol had spent R40 million on more than 130 community projects in the past four years. “The projects include‚ among others‚ 11 timber-frame structures‚ a school with 39 classrooms‚ six victims’ centres‚ three ICT centres and providing 26 schools with computers‚” he said.
The Committee has promised to return to the province before the end of 2015.