Within the Wealth and Networks of Mondi – Zama Khumalo

October 1, 2014 § Leave a comment


The company “Mondi Group” has created interesting records since its establishment in 1967. More interesting events have taken place in the history of Mondi.

But until post-2000, when the company had left Magudvu, that it started providing some form of mini reparations to the people it wronged, particularly in the areas where it had economic investment. These people are called “previously disadvantaged black communities”.

But by 2010, large portions of Mondi land were under land claims, after more and more black people came forward to confirm that the timber company benefited from land that was taken by force from them.

The Afrikaners are known in human history for ruthless barbarism and hereditary chronic mental disorders when coming into contacts with black people, even long before they formed the Transvaal Republic in 1852. Even in post-1994 South Africa, there was never a time when the Afrikaners and blacks lived together in peace without the Afrikaners attempting to abuse blacks.

Land that was ill-occupied by Afrikaners were sold to Mondi in the late 1960s to begin what today is known as the biggest timber company in the world with a revenue of close to 100 billion rands. In most areas, land that was used to produce food (e.g maize and milk) for a large number of black people to eat as captives of white commercial farms was turned by Mondi into a one-culture land of growing trees, and trees only.

In the area of Magudvu where Mondi derived it wealth and operated for more than 30 years, black people were not allowed to own livestock because it would distroy Mondi trees. In the advent of Murray & Roberts, and subsequently Mondi in 1967, blacks who owned cattle and goats were forced to slaughter or sell all of them, and then come to start making a living by working for Mondi.

Initial profits for each of the various timber companies were estimated to be more than R4m a year. This is during the time when a bread cost only 2c, a brand-new high-performance car cost R3 500 (Mercedes Benz) and each black worker earned between R3 and R15 a month.

Mondi also benefited from the 6 months free labour, in which other blacks were brought in by Afrikaner moguls to work for free in the development of Mondi forests. Other black workers belonging to Mondi were moved from one portion of economic base to start a new life in another portion, while their children were losing educational opportunities in the process. This movement also contributed vastly to the break-down of black families. Other families had a father who worked far, and because of underpayment, could not be able to come back home regularly to see his children.

In the worse form of human savage, other blacks who belonged to the Nguni tribe and lived in the northern part of South Africa and neighbouring Mozambiquan areas, who are known as Tsongas or Shangaans, were exposed to be banished by other blacks in the order of the Afrikaners in defiance of their leader Samora Machelle.

The most painful thing during Mondi reign in Magudvu and Warburton was when other blacks realised that the new settler was a Shangaan. Mondi telephones were used to call the cops, who captured the new man identified with the Tsonga language and punished him in the most form of cruelty never told in human history. This was done, before a state vehicle transports the victim back to Mozambique, where state-organised Portuguese violence awaited him.

During the 6 months free labour in South Africa, after the worker had worked for free until a certain date, then he would proceed to the next stage where Mondi would want to hire him, to enlist him in the large army of forestry field workers. But most accurately, all that we can say about the history of South Africa is that there is no single piece of land that was not owned by the Afrikaners and not envied by the English.

A company called “Bowaters UK” during Apartheid, which specialised in marketing the soft papers used for printing news (news+papers), formed a joint company with a company called “SA Waxed” in 1966 and in 1967, Anglo American plc bought this company to form Mondi.

Today we can say that Mondi is the most powerful timber company in South Africa, with other branches in Russia, Europe and America. But other branches outside South Africa were only formed recently after Mondi had already established itself in Magudvu, Warburton and surounding Mpumalanga areas.

In Warburton, Mondi built plush homes for Afrikaner site managers and supervisors and their families in a suitable separate portion, and then left their large army of black workers and families to languish in muddy houses on the other side of the main road until in 2009, almost 40 years later, when the ANC government built free RDP houses for them.

In Magudvu, Mondi did the same but the ANC never built RDP houses, instead it asked the people of Magudvu to choose between RDP houses or electricity, for which the people of Magudvu chose electricity!

Mondi also produce office papers…

Another look at Mondi shows that certain benefits that were vehicled in the form of reparations to address past sins skipped the people of Magudvu and went to empower an annointed few blacks outside Magudvu suffering. In some of these episodes, and we shall see, vested elitist ANC interests played a major role in getting some crumbs of Mondi wealth into the hands of the few.

Today we will attempt to show how the the benefits got into the hands of the few at the expense of the querilling conditions of workers…

Two weeks ago we showed how Mondi continued to operate through name-changed companies. In 2000, Mondi left Magudvu and formed Global Forest Product to remain and operate in its stead.

In 2009, exactly 9 years after Mondi had left Magudvu, the company started a program in the current areas where it operates to supply “hot, cooked meals” everyday to underpaid field workers for what they say is “part of a broader programme to ensure that the group creates decent work for all employees.”

One public relations writer, writting in the June 2010 edition of the SA Forestry Magazine on Mondi’s “hot, cooked meal for workers”, said that “forestry work is tough and demanding on human body, and a hot meal everyday contributes to the health and strength of workers”.

The food program to workers was also overwhelmingly recommended because it brought “benefits in terms of enhanced productivity, reduced absenteeism and improved safety.”

By the time Mondi left in 2000, Magudvu wages were just over R700. Mondi profits increased drastically in the past 43 years, but wages to workers remained at a steady pace almost forever.

In 2008, the department of forestry in South Africa established the Forest Sector Charter Council which was meant to “extend economic opportunities and benefits to previously disadvantaged black groups.”

This council reported directly to the BEE Advisory Council on progress of “ownership and socio-economic development”. The BEE Advisory Council is made out of black intellectuals who are connected to the ANC elitist ideology of self-enrichment…

According to a statement released by the department of forestry in June 2013, the council performed well in terms of “socio-economic developmet and ownership.”

But back in 2000, the year when Mondi was leaving Magudvu, a newly formed company called ‘Siyaqhubeka Forests’ was awarded a government tender to run 25 000 hectres of trees in KwaZulu Natal…

Siyaqhubeka Forests, which is said to be “black empowered”, and which by 2012 had reportedly planted 21 000 hectres of land with new trees and delivers close to 500 000 timber poles every year to Mondi mills, is owned by Mondi and has some interesting faces to know about.





The pronoun (“Si”-) and the present tense-indicator (“-ya-“), for ‘Siya-’, and the verb, (“-Qhubeka”), in ‘SiyaQhubeka Forests’ is taken from the Zulu language of South East Africa to mean WE ARE CONTINUING.

Most of Mondi workers in the primary sector abused tobacco and alcohol (sometimes marijuana) in the past 43 years to suppress the painful thoughts of being exploited and oppressed.

Mondi ransacked and ruined thousands of lives both in pre- and post-1994 South Africa and has therefore tried all it could in ANC democratic dispensation to grant some joy to certain black faces as compensations for a spade of sins committed by the timber company in its history of development as an international paper group also listed on both the London and Johannesburg stock exchange.

What I have found very important in the history of recording the accounts of injustice under capitalist imperialist hands, is first to find the people who lived the experience, if they were still alive. Then if it happened a long time ago, like in the case of Shaka Zulu for us in 2014, then it is important to find the family, relatives or extended friend lines of the people who lived in a particular area where British and Boer economic operation established and concentrated.

In the area of Magudvu, where Mondi operated in the disadvantage of black workers, some former workers were still alive in 2014, still strong and still black, and their grand-children were in their 30s. One of the ex-workers interviewed, Gogo Soko (73), was able to tell a history of the area that dates back to as early as 1946 when she was still very young herself.

But it was noticed, Gogo Soko always remembered clearly things that took place from 1961 onwards, this period she was still a pretty young girl, working for free for baas. By 1982, Gogo Soko had been married and her children had already been wanted by Mondi in the forestry plantations.

In post-1994 South Africa, victims of Mondi were made to believe the anti-black orthodoxies that come with Apartheid and certain black individuals who were not direct victims of Mondi past sins were designed to be “representatives of previously disadvantaged black communities” – to come get stakes from spoils generated by black suffering.

ANC politicians were recruited by Mondi to come get remunerations from the status quo of land dispossession and workers’ starvation.

During Apartheid, competent Afrikaner nationalism founded Safcol, or ‘the South African Forestry Company Limited’, as state forestry company to compete on behalf of the people in the plantations – and sale and processing – of wattle, eucalyptus and pine trees. But in 1998, the ANC government, planning to pump some public wealth into self-enrichment private projects, announced that they were now planning to put up the state company to be grabbed by private firms.

They cited some reasons for giving Safcol up for grab, among them they cited underperformance and dismal incompetence on the part of the ANC government, and which they say was resulting in some huge “cash losses of R300 million” at the end of 1997 and that they were now allowing “investors to make use of Safcol assets”.

Then Public Enterprise Minister, Jeff Radebe, together with then Forestry Minister, Ronnie Kasrils, justified privatisation of state wealth and publicly called on all giant white companies wishing to bid to please also include some BEE faces.

During the bid in 2001, Mondi was among the companies in the queue but a ‘black empowerment’ company called “Zama Resource Corporations” won the bid and took over some majority stakes in Safcol.

But to control some of Safcol’s commercial forestry assets in Lake St. Lucia in KZN, Mondi, through SiyaQhubeka Forests, was able to “bid successfully”!

SiyaQhubeka Forests is owned by Mondi (51%), Imbokodvo Lemabalabala (13.2%), Safcol (25%), Gudlulwandle Trust and Qalakahle Trust (10.8%).

Initially, Mondi owned 75% of SiyaQhubeka Forests, and extended some wealth to the company called ‘Imbokodvo Lemabalabala’ in 2002, handing out to them a stake 13.2% and then also accommodating the two trusts, Gudlulwandle and Qalakahle, giving each trust a 5.4%.

During the bid for public wealth, the company Zama Resources caused some little public drama and spoiled the moods of some white tycoons after one of its BEE faces paid R55 000 to government official Andile Nkuhlu, who was heading the bidding process in which Zama Resourcers won.

The payment was made before the bid and Nkuhlu was reported to the media, and when answering to allegations, he said:

“To the best of my knowledge at that time, these amounts were paid through my wedding organising committee, comprising of family and friends, as contribution to my wedding.”

There are also other interesting companies that have stakes in Mondi stems, including “Vuka” of former Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa.

The evidence so far shows that the efforts needed to form companies like Vuka or Imbokodvo Lemabalabala were less stressful than the sweats required for an ordinary black man wishing to start a tuck-shop in the township.

Commenting on the extension of some of Mondi wealth to Vuka, then Mondi CEO Andrew Thompson said: “We believe that this transaction provides Vuka with an attractive opportunity to participate in meaningful way of timber.”

‘Vuka’ is a verb taken from various Nguni languages in Southern Africa to mean WAKE UP and ‘Imbokodvo Lemabalabala’ is a name taken from the seSwati language of South East Africa to mean A SPOTTED ROCK.

The chairman of Imbokodvo Lemabalabala, Linda Mngomezulu, has served on various ANC government jobs, including being an influencial member of the Gauteng Housing Board which (as of 2014) was also responsible for negotiating the land with white land-owners. Mngomezulu in the past 20 years worked his way up to the top not only as a public representative but also as a businessman too. He served recently as national secretary of the ANC’s civil movement, SANCO.

The other director of Imbokodvo Lemabalabala, Dimakatso Moraka, is someone who also comes from both the ANC bourgeois familial line and Mondi bloodstream. She was also involved with the opportunity-providing Gauteng Department of Housing.

Another look at Moraka shows that she is also favoured by mining white capital, having been employed as a human resource manager for Anglo American for 13 years before she moved to the Chamber of Mines where she was a senior manager of communications.

The Chamber of Mines was established in 1889 to represent mining slave-owners, and consists of independent mining-finance corporations, including individual ill-obtained mines and super-rich imperialist companies, like Anglo American pls.

Mondi partnered with a string of other ANC politicians, former and current government representatives, including deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to come have stakes in crumbs of value-surplus generated by land dispossession and cheap black labour.

Mondi also arranged Kgoshi Mathebe of the Bantwane tribe in Dennilton in Mpumalanga, Kgosigadi Mohlala of the Mohlala tribe in Graskop and three other tribal chiefs, including the brother of King Swati III, Prince Makhosonke Dlamini, of the Embhuleni tribal authority in Badplaas (eManzana) to also come get stakes in SiyaQhuka Forests.

The jurisdiction of operation of Mondi in Magudvu, Warburton and areas towards the Swaziland borderline falls under this authority and in all cases the new deals in the post-1994 capitalist shake-ups, and exchange of crumbs of Mondi wealth, have seen workers’starvations retained and Mondi returning none of black people’s land.

When more and more black people came forward to confirm that the company operated on their land, Mondi responded by getting hold of the Land Claims Commission and recommended certain “models” that practically ensured that wronged blacks laboured and kept a continual supply of timber to Mondi mills while other individuals with influencial ANC positions were inserted to guard Mondi and help it escapes responsibility for past sins.

In the South African Year Book of the fiscal term 2009/10, the ANC government reported and criticised land claims.

“It is estimated that upwards of 50% to 60% of the current afforested area is subject to land claims. Given the importance of the [forestry] industry in terms of its contribution to the South African economy and to the upliftment of rural communities, it is essential that these benefits are not undermined through unsustainable land-reforms initiatives.”!

(story continues)


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