While North West dairy farmers insist that they are unaffected by Clover’s decision to shift production from Lichtenburg to KwaZulu-Natal, manufacturing employees seem to be facing a different reality.
The General Industries Workers’ Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) has rejected Clover’s move, claiming it was motivated by “greedy capitalism”. Clover says its move was substantiated by poor service delivery in North West.
GIWUSA represents manufacturing employees who lived in and around Lichtenburg to be close to employment. The union says shifting these people to major cities where land is already scarce and living costs are high due to tourism attractions, begs the question of how they will survive.
Furthermore, the union argues that Clover fails to recognise that its decision has a far greater impact on African communities than it realises. If Clover has trouble obtaining basic utilities like water and electricity, GUWISA wonders how much more difficult it is for the communities without resources.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi, GIWUSA spokesperson Mametlwe Sebei says, “The factory’s relocation has created disastrous circumstances for these workers, as their salaries must now be split between two households, which are insufficient on their own, and in black communities, a family is not confined to a husband and wife.”
North West as a ghost province
GIWUSA is encouraging government to “expropriate Clover to save jobs”. It believes Clover’s controversial decision could ultimately turn North West into a ghost province with limited work opportunities.
“We are pursuing the mandate of eradicating unemployment and investing in these rural towns so that young people do not have to relocate to big cities in search of a brighter future by asking for nationalisation,” says Sebei.
Clover’s move comes as South Africa’s unemployment rate has reached an all-time high of 32.6% in the first three months of 2021. GIWUSA says this is especially concerning, given that a growing number of enterprises are closing due to Covid-19-induced financial challenges.
According to Clover, the most compelling reason for its relocation was water and energy issues which makes production more feasible in KwaZulu-Natal.