According to Rhodes University’s Centre for Social Development, roughly 60% of Grahamstown's population is unemployed, most of the jobless living in Grahamstown’s townships. The Kaolin Trust and Kaolin Cooperatives sustain hope for several hundred local young people who work towards the implementation of small-scale kaolin-related projects in this municipality, but sadly with almost no support from the municipality.
A ceramics consultant was employed for nearly two years in Makana Municipality, with the purpose of starting small-scale ceramics production. Nothing got off the ground during his tenure because the municipality privileges the use of consultants over support for participatory opportunities.
This bypasses the very people for whom development is crucial – the for economically marginalised young people of this town. What is really needed is development in which the people are provided with the support to become productive in their own member-owner cooperatives – a form of SMME.
The Makana Annual Report 2010 explains that in its Local Economic Development Strategy economic viability would be ignited through support to SMMEs. It also explains that a Kaolin Forum and a Kaolin Trust were established.
Several hundred unemployed young people were organised into cooperatives and the Kaolin Trust accepted the responsibility of serving as project champion and protector.
The land is owned by the municipality which has been mandated to provide lease agreements to the Kaolin Trust to facilitate access by the cooperatives. The process of awarding leases to the Trust has been long delayed. The Kaolin Trust has also lodged mining rights applications with the Department of Mineral Resources.
The Kaolin Cooperatives have continued their efforts to prepare themselves to produce bricks, roof and floor tiles and a range of ceramic products. Some 200 members meet regularly to receive progress reports.
The Kaolin Trust has secured support from strategic partners.
The Rhodes commerce students’ society organised a successful four-day bizweek on establishing and managing small businesses.
The Faculty of Economic Sciences has committed to a concrete plan to train and support the management components of each cooperative.
Other strategic relationships have been secured with the Department of Mineral Resources; Mintek, the division of the Department of Trade and Industry tasked with providing technical and training support to small-scale mining and beneficiation initiatives across the country; the Department of Economic Development of the Eastern Cape; the Eastern Cape Development Corporation and the Department of Social Development.
Yet the Makana Municipality has excluded the Trust and the Cooperatives in conducting business related to kaolin mining and beneficiation, such as when it submitted a funding application to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) for a grant of R500 000 to provide for the development of a feasibility study into kaolin mining in the municipality and a business plan for the setting up of an incubator.
The tenders received were adjudicated without the participation of the members of the Kaolin Trust or Kaolin Cooperatives Task Team.
The IDC did, however, recommend to the Municipality that it contribute funds from the R100 000 provision for contingency purposes within the grant it had provided, to assist the Trust and the Cooperatives with their operational expenses. To date, the Municipality has not acted on this.
The municipality used the platform of a recent workshop to insult and denigrate the Trust and Cooperative Task Team members and to bring in new potential partners who presented models to the workshop in which ‘experts’ would implement kaolin mining and beneficiation and would thereby provide some employment to local people as workers, not as owner-producers.
This is contrary to the plans undertaken by the Trust and the Cooperatives. Consequently, the Trust has written a letter of objection.
Executive Mayor Mr Zamuxolo Peter asserted in his inaugural speech that under his leadership this “municipality will develop the programmes that seek to uplift young people and also provide a support system” to them.
The Kaolin Trust and the Kaolin Cooperatives expect Mr Peter to be a man of his word.