Poultry lose out

2017-08-20 06:02
More than 25 small farmers stood to benefit from a chicken abattoir project. Picture: Reuters

More than 25 small farmers stood to benefit from a chicken abattoir project. Picture: Reuters

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Small poultry farmers in the north of Tshwane have lost out on a R4.5m government-funded chicken abattoir project after the SA Poultry Association made a U-turn on the promise to support them.

The association said the project was canned because “the market was overtraded”.

Funding for the scrapped project has since been channelled to a new agroprocessing venture involving a business partner of one of the SA Poultry Association’s board members.

The abattoir project – intended to cater for farmers in the areas of Waterval, Pyramid, Vasfontein, Bon Accord and Honingneskrans – was initiated in 2012 and funding approved a year later.

In mid-2015, the association got an offer for the Gauteng agriculture department to purchase an abattoir in Cullinan, east of Tshwane.

But an independent expert evaluated the abattoir and advised against the purchase.

Charlotte Nkuna, SA Poultry Association’s project manager, said an alternative site in Ga-Rankuwa also flopped because it had required funding of R25m and “no final costing was prepared”.

The Gauteng agriculture department subsequently decided the project was no longer viable, she said.

More than three and a half years later, and with the public funds still in its coffers, the association initiated a new project that would see Linda Kekana, a business associate of SA Poultry Association board member Willie Bosoga, become the new beneficiary under a company called Setsong Sarona, which was registered in November.

Kekana and Bosoga are also the directors of Kebo Chickens, registered in October 2014, as well as another business called Agrowah, registered in June last year.

She said the two aforesaid companies she co-owned with Bosoga were “currently dormant” and had no relevance to the agroprocessing venture.

She added that she was “not aware” of Bosoga using his influence to divert any money to Setsong Sarona.

The co-owner of Setsong Sarona is Tumisang Mokwene, who was previously part of the Tshwane North Poultry cooperative, registered in 2009.

Some of its members left in 2011 to form the Tshwane North Poultry and Agriculture cooperative, which applied for government funding in 2012.

Nkuna said it was the Gauteng agriculture department that nominated the beneficiaries for the new project.

“This happens with all funds that the SA Poultry Association receives from the state. The state has the right to nominate the beneficiaries,” she said.

The department did not respond to questions sent by City Press last Thursday.

Tediso Molepo, the official in charge of the project, said he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Kekana said: “As the SA Poultry Association’s focus shifted from building abattoirs to rather establishing processing and distribution centres, it was necessary to identify the most experienced and qualified entities to execute the project.”

She said Mokwene had already planned to establish a processing plant and they later entered into a partnership.

“The simple reason for [collaborating] is that between the two of [us, we] possess more than 10 years of experience in supplying poultry products.”

A highly placed source said Bosoga’s previous business premises, located at Tshwane Fresh Produce Market – which is also the site for the new project – was already being improved with the same funds and was set to be used as a chicken processing plant, which is scheduled to start operating this month.

Nkuna said Bosoga used to lease a site at the Tshwane market, where he sold “mala” – chicken intestines – bought from Kekana.

She said the lease for this business site was transferred to the new project “before any work was done on the site”.

The facility would remain the property of the City of Tshwane, even if Setsong Sarona vacated the facility, said Nkuna.

However, Mokwene disagreed, saying the site “was never transferred. Rather, the municipality approved a completely new proposal for the facility after Setsong Sarona made a presentation.”

Kekana agreed, saying Bosoga’s company was evicted from the premises in February because “they were not able to pay the rent” and Setsong took over in March.

Trudy Matlala, the secretary of the Tshwane North Poultry and Agriculture cooperative, said former Gauteng agriculture MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza had “approved and announced it in public that the funds were for the cooperative”.

Matlala said the SA Poultry Association “was entrusted with the implementation of the project as industry experts”.

The initial R4.5m had been budgeted for the infrastructure, and a further R3m would have been granted later to boost the production of chickens that would be supplied to the abattoir.

She said the cooperative had identified sites and that a proposal to buy the portions of land had since been sent to the department of land

Matlala added: “What we know is that our funds are still available and are being held by the SA Poultry Association, and that we have not stopped looking for an abattoir.”

Read more on:    animals  |  agriculture

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