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Poor municipal service delivery forces move by SA’s biggest cheese plant

Dairy food and beverage company Clover is moving its cheese factory from Lichtenburg in the North West to Queensburgh in Durban, KZN because of poor service delivery.

The company said appalling road, water, electricity and sewerage failures have left it with no choice but to move the factory, which is the biggest in SA, more than 780km to KwaZulu-Natal. 

It Queensburgh plant is well established and Clover says the municipality there has been far more welcoming.

According to News24 Clover said that it had been attempting to engage with the Ditsobotla Local Municipality (under which Lichtenburg falls) for years, to address electricity and water failures, as well as crumbling road infrastructure, but to no avail.

The provision of services in the area is a serious problem, according to Sunday Times, as ANC factions fight for control of Ditsobotla local municipality. The town has two mayors, Tsholofelo Moreo and Tebogo Buthelezi, who belong to warring factions.

Lichtenburg’s Boikhutso township is streaming with raw sewage running down streets and tonnes of black plastic bags lie alongside roads where refuse has not been collected for months. The road leading to the CBD of the farming town is piled high with rubbish on both sides.

Water and electricity are not guaranteed, and for a company which relies on refrigeration and pasteurisation this is a deal-breaker.

A reliable water and electricity supply are vital to the production of milk and other dairy products and the road leading to the factory is now almost impassable due to potholes, according to reports.

The move will cost 330 people their jobs, with huge ramifications for the local farmers supplying the factory and many other suppliers.

DA leader, John Steenhuisen, has weighed in on this development, in his weekly letter:

“Clover is consolidating its production activities in its Durban factory, a move which will cost Clover R1.5-billion. This is a massive vote of no confidence in Ditsobotla municipality and a massive blow to the community. Some 330 breadwinners will lose their jobs. Other smaller businesses in the municipality will suffer a drop in demand for goods and services.

“On the other side of the spectrum lies Midvaal Municipality, the only local government in Gauteng that the DA runs with a full mandate. A decade of solid delivery under the capable leadership of DA mayor Bongani Baloyi has attracted investment to the area and boosted local economic activity, giving rise to its reputation as the fastest-growing municipality in Gauteng.

“Unsurprisingly, Sedibeng Breweries, South African distributors for Heineken, chose to establish its national office there, bringing with it new opportunities for job creation and small business. Other major organisations operating there are Ferrero Roche, New Hope, BSI Steel, South 32, Paramount Trailers and the Oprah Winfrey School. You will not find any of them closing or moving because of poor municipal service delivery.”

Latest reports say that North West premier Tebogo Job Mokgoro has dispatched a team led by agriculture and rural development MEC Desbo Mohono to meet the management of the dairy manufacturing company Clover in an effort to halt the looming relocation of the company to Durban.

Earlier this year, poultry producer Astral Foods took government to court over service delivery issues in the Lekwa (Standerton) Municipality in Mpumalanga.

RELATED: Poultry producer takes on govt, wins court order over poor service delivery

LISTEN: Here The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews economist Karen Heese from Municipal IQ, which monitors and assesses “all of South Africa’s 257 municipalities”.

Clover’s decision to pull out of North West sends a strong message that the province needs to hear, she says.

Source: News24.com, TimesLive.co.za, Cape Talk

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