WARM greetings to readers of our column. Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle responds to protesters Following a five-day community protest that took place from August 25 to 30 in Matatiele, the Premier of the Eastern Cape, Phumulo Masualle met with the community of Matatiele on August 31 at the Maluti Civic Centre accompanied by the MEC for Roads and Public Works, Thandiswa Marawu. The premier acknowledged the backlog that exists in the Alfred Nzo District, but promised to focus on practical interventions to resolve some of the grievances for Matatiele area in particular. It is after these engagements that the public transport operators in Matatiele, led by the R56 Matatiele Forum, resolved to suspend the protest action. “We are aware of the backlog regarding surfacing of roads and it is more than the magnitude and resources available. The road to Qacha’s Nek leading to Lesotho has been prioritised and negotiations with national departments and SANRAL are under way,” said Masualle. He further alluded to the fact that the province will embark on a massive road maintenance plan to reduce public complaints. The municipality would like to extend a word of gratitude to Matatiele and Maluti SAPS for maintaining order during these protests and an apology to local businesses and schools for the distraction caused.Minister launches Arbor Week in MatatieleAs the custodian of the greening function in South Africa, Minister Senzeni Zokwana officially launched Arbor Week in Matatiele Local Municipality at North End Stadium on September 1. The launch was in partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Alfred Nzo District Municipality, Matatiele Local Municipality and corporate sponsor, Total South Africa. The minister handed over 100 peach trees to Councillor Thabiso Mohoto from Ward 26 for distribution to 50 households. Each household will receive two trees as part of Daff’s contribution to food security.As part of the implementation of the greening programme it is estimated that about 3 000 trees would have been planted by the end of the campaign throughout Matatiele. Accompanied by MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, Alfred Nzo District Municipality Executive mayor Cllr Sixolile Mehlomakhulu and MLM Mayor Cllr Momelezi Mbedla, the minister commenced the launch with visits to projects in Cedarville. Fruit trees were planted in a family co-operative, Ingcambu Agricultural Development in Cedarville and vegetable seed packs were donated. This was followed by tree planting at the Maluti Multi-Disability School and GI Primary School in Cedarville. The tree planting drive was concluded with the planting of trees at the entrance of Matatiele town.Welcoming more than 3 000 attendees, Mbedla emphasised that Matatiele Local Municipality is one of the municipalities with areas that are biophysically suitable for commercial forestry. In this land of ours we boast more than 500 community forestry plantations. Mbedla asked the minister and MEC to work with the municipality to open an institution of higher learning focusing on agriculture. “We have identified agriculture and manufacturing as the most contributing sectors to the economy of our municipality,” he said. In line with this realisation, at the recent IDP outreach programmes the municipality received a proposal from the people of Matatiele to open a tertiary institution with a special focus on agriculture. “It is in line with this request that I submit to leadership that we work together to realise this proposal,” he said. Total South Africa has donated R2,4 million for the Abor Week greening campaign. The South African Post Office will supply trees in Gauteng to the value of R50 000. Sappi will also donate indigenous trees to be planted in and around Matatiele.The theme for this year’s campaign is “Forests and Water” with the aim of emphasising the planting of indigenous trees that conserve water. We are a destination of choice and excellence.