THE facilitation of a R133 million expansion of long-time ECDC client PG Bison has led to Singisi Forest Products in Langeni near Mthatha saving 200 jobs.
Langeni Sawmill and Matiwane Forest employ a total of 1,030 people, mainly from local villages.
Matiwane plantation at Langeni is operated by Singisi Forest Products, a subsidiary of Merensky Timber (Pty) Ltd, which is wholly-owned by Hans Merensky Holdings (Pty) Ltd.
The forestry and timber manufacturing industry in the OR Tambo district is the largest employer in the area and the youth are increasingly interested in the study of forestry.
“We are the biggest employer in the Mthatha area. About 90% of our staff is drawn from local communities,” says Phillip Tshikhudo, the regional operations manager of both Langeni Sawmill and Matiwane Forest.
Fifty-year-old Nodumo Mathole of KuGoqwana village in Tsolo is one of Singisi’s longest- serving employees, having worked for the company for over 27 years.
The single mother of four has managed to feed and educate all her children from her salary and to build a decent brick-and-mortar home.
A bursary from the company helped cover education costs for her children, who are now between the ages of 17 and 30. One is a qualified social worker and her studies were financed in large part by a Merensky bursary.
“I was only 23 years old when I started in an entry-level position earning R240 a month.
As years went by I was paid a better salary and managed to pay for the schooling of my children and to build a family home,” says Mathole. She is now an experienced supervisor who has worked in the forest and at the sawmill.
“The company is also serious about personal growth and up skilling of their employees. I have obtained a computer certificate, completed an SABS approval course, and done block marking through the company,” she says.
The company has renovated schools and it has assisted in many other community-led projects.
ECDC investment promotion sector specialist Pierre Leppan says the facilitation of the PG Bison investment led to Singisi Forest Products saving 200 jobs. “This facilitation process resulted in the construction of the road linking Ugie and the Langeni Sawmill.
“Langeni would have reduced the number of workers to keep the factory running optimally if it was not supplemented by PG Bison and conversely wood chips being sent from Langeni to PG Bison in Ugie, ”says Leppan. Leppan says ECDC is in a concerted drive to attract more domestic and foreign direct investment into the Eastern Cape which not only revitalizes economic activity but one which prioritises job creation.
“Therefore, ECDC continues to support expansion plans and infrastructure roll-out which retains, saves ad creates jobs.
“In 2016/17 ECDC facilitated investments worth R633 million in the Eastern Cape which led to the saving and creation of 479 jobs,” adds Leppan.
Since 2001, Merensky Timber has been the main shareholder of Singisi Forest Products (SFP), a company that grows mainly Pine timber and processes lumber at its three sawmills, of which Langeni Sawmill (LSM) is one.
These mills are at the forefront of South African sawmill, producing highest- quality sawn Pine lumber for building, construction, furniture and joinery uses.
ECDC is also a shareholder of Singisi Forest Products and it has supported the organization even during volatile lumber market conditions.
ECDC has continued to invest in the Langeni Sawmill through the maintenance of buildings, houses and other infrastructure.
“This investment not only supports our sawmill but it also plays an important role in supplying water and sanitation to many communities in the areas in which we operate,’’ says Tshikhudo who is an experienced sawmiller.