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Actualising Empowerment - Forest Sector Transformation Charter Launched
Victor Kgomoeswana


The Forest Sector Transformation Charter Launched – Part 1


Minister of Water Affairs & Forestry Lindiwe Hendricks launched the draft Forest Sector Transformation Charter for public comment at the Kopanong Conference Centre in Benoni, Gauteng, on June 25th 2007. The draft charter took about two years to produce, under the chairmanship of Gugu Moloi – former CEO of Umgeni Water and Impumelelo Absa Businesswoman of the Year in 2005.

Acknowledging that it took quite a long time to produce this draft, Minister Hendricks hastened to point out that everything hinged on the finalisation of the BBBEE framework. Not a minor undertaking, the charter featured prominently in the Minister’s budget speech in May 2007, when she committed R40 million to start its implementation. This is 8.7% of the forestry budget of R460 million.

At a function attended by a range of stakeholders, including forest industry bodies such as Forestry South Africa and the Paper Manufacturers’ Association of SA, Amahlathi Contractor’s Forum and the SA Forestry Contractors’ Association. Provincial leaders, representatives of labour, small timber growers, saw millers and charcoal producers, as well as non-government organisations, researchers and academicswere also in attendance.

The charter is intended to transform the forest industry, but because of its interrelatedness with the emotive land reform process, it is bound to affect the lives of millions of South Africans.

In this vein, said the Minister, “the South African forestry industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that cuts across several industries and sectors, yet the people on whose backs this industry was built still remain in poverty.  Our aim through this charter is to ensure that we continue to grow the forestry sector and that it remains a globally competitive industry, while we ensure that there is broad-based BEE”.

She emphasised that the charter has to address the following issues:

  • “The fact that it is historically white and male dominated, and characterised by large disparities in access to opportunities and benefits for black people, especially black women;
  • the fact that many small scale, mostly black owned, operators struggle to remain afloat;
  • the problem of wide scale casualisation of jobs and the reality that poor employment conditions persist; and
  • the need to increase raw material supply to sustain growth and employment in the entire forestry value chain”.

The Minister was realistic in admitting some of the constraints facing the transformation of the sector, such as the painfully slow land restitution processes and lack of finance for emerging entrepreneurs. The charter predictably proposes negotiations to establish the Forest Industry Development Fund to overcome the latter obstacle.

Mindful of the struggle that lies ahead, the Minister concluded, the imperative of Broad-Based BEE is too important to be left to chance, and the Charter provides us with clear targets and outcomes.  While I have been assured that there is commitment from the industry to keeping to these targets, I will also ensure that all the instruments available to us are used to encourage Broad-Based BEE in both the forestry and forest products industry”.

Part 2 will look at the scorecard contained in this charter.




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