Hund­reds lo­se their jobs

George Herald - - Voorblad - Ilse S­choon­raad

On Mon­day mor­ning mo­re than 400 sa­w­mill wor­kers he­ard they will be re­tren­ched fol­lo­wing the de­va­sta­ting fi­re t­hat gut­ted their work­pla­ce ne­ar Ka­ra­ta­ra on Mon­day af­ter­noon, 29 Oc­to­ber. The wor­kers we­re cal­led to a meet­ing in Ka­ra­ta­ra w­he­re Da­ve Me­te­lerk­amp, the o­w­ner of Geel­hout­vlei Tim­bers, told them it was just not vi­a­ble to re­build the sa­w­mill t­hat he star­ted from scra­tch in the la­te 1980s.

Me­te­lerk­amp, who al­so lost his ho­me on their farm, Gan­z­vlei, in the fi­re, de­cli­ned to speak to the Ge­or­ge He­rald, but is said to be de­va­sta­ted by the di­sas­ter and the laying off of his work­for­ce. Re­ad his tou­ching sta­te­ment and ap­pe­al on pa­ge 9.

On­ly a few of the wor­kers li­ve in the ne­ar­by vil­la­ge and most of the em­ploy­ees we­re fe­t­ched from sur­roun­ding towns on a daily ba­sis.

Vi­si­ting the sa­w­mill on Tu­es­day, the

Ge­or­ge He­rald en­coun­te­red a hor­ri­fic sig­ht. Sa­w­dust was still bur­ning and the on­ly part of the on­ce thri­ving sa­w­mill t­hat had sur­vi­ved the fla­mes, we­re a few lar­ge sheds fil­led with planks. The e­quip­ment, vehi­cles and pro­ces­sing plant ha­ve been com­ple­te­ly de­stroy­ed.

Ac­cor­ding to the Geel­hout­vlei Tim­bers web­si­te, the p­ri­va­te sa­w­mill pro­ces­sed up to 60 000 cu­bic me­tres per an­num of high qua­li­ty pi­ne logs and pro­du­ced a va­ri­e­ty of pro­ducts.

A sa­w­mill is a la­bour in­ten­si­ve o­pe­ra­ti­on and the Sout­hern Ca­pe can ill af­ford the loss of 400 jobs in an in­du­stry t­hat has been st­rug­gling sin­ce go­vern­ment for­ced p­ri­va­te plan­ta­ti­on o­pe­ra­tors to re­turn plan­ta­ti­ons to the De­part­ment of A­gri­cul­tu­re, Fo­re­stry and Fis­her­ies (Daff) and Ca­peNa­tu­re. In spi­te of the­se chal­len­ges, Geel­hout­vlei has ma­na­ged to thri­ve amid the clo­su­re and do­wn­si­zing of ma­ny ot­her sa­w­mills in the re­gi­on.

(See the ar­ti­cle 'Gi­ve plan­ta­ti­ons back to p­ri­va­te g­ro­wers' on pa­ge 8.)

The Gan­z­vlei S­to­ry

The Gan­z­vlei farm is re­no­w­ned for its dai­ry pro­ducts pro­du­ced by Da­ve Me­te­lerk­amp's brot­her, Chris­to­pher, from milk pro­du­ced by his pe­digree Jer­sey catt­le. In a 2008 book, The Gan­z­vlei S­to­ry by Me­te­lerk­amp's fat­her, Da­vid Pe­ter, who boug­ht the farm in 1978, he prai­ses his sons. "T­hanks to Da­ve's gre­at com­mit­ment and hard work, the sa­w­mill has pro­spe­red in spi­te of very ad­ver­se ci­r­cum­stan­ces on ma­ny oc­ca­si­ons. He has con­cen­tra­ted ex­clu­si­ve­ly on buil­ding up the bu­si­ness ‘Geel­hout­vlei Tim­bers CC’, and has been cle­ar t­hat the bu­si­ness co­mes first w­hen he mar­ried and child­ren we­re born, he me­re­ly ad­ded on rooms and im­pro­vements to the ca­ra­van and shack in which he star­ted. Now, af­ter twen­ty y­e­ars, he is fi­nis­hing off a fi­ne new lar­ge wooden hou­se, u­sing in­di­ge­nous tim­ber for the win­dows, doors, cup­bo­ards, stairs and so on... O­ver the y­e­ars Da­ve has ta­ken the sa­w­mill from strength to strength. It has be­co­me mo­re success­ful than I could ha­ve i­ma­gi­ned and sol­ved the pro­blem of an in­co­me and pen­si­on for me, the pa­rent of such mar­vel­lous and wil­ling child­ren.

“Wit­hout them my e­ar­ly dre­am of res­ting in g­reen pas­tu­res by still wa­ters would ne­ver ha­ve co­me to pass. Now t­hat I am o­ver eig­hty y­e­ars old I am con­si­de­ring buying a ham­mock to hang be­t­ween the two stink­wood trees t­hat I plan­ted for t­hat pur­po­se so­me y­e­ars ago. K­no­wing the way t­hat La­dy Luck smi­les on me, it would not sur­pri­se me if so­meo­ne pro­vi­des the ham­mock w­hen Chris­t­mas co­mes." - Gan­z­vlei, A­pril 2008

To re­ad The Gan­z­vlei S­to­ry on­li­ne, vi­sit gan­z­vlei.co.za/wp-con­tent/u­plo­ads/2012/01/ DP-Gan­z­vlei-s­to­ry-text1.pdf.

P­ho­to: SA Fo­re­stry On­li­ne - 2014.

O­ver 400 people ha­ve lost their jobs af­ter Geel­hout­vlei Tim­bers ne­ar Ka­ra­ta­ra was de­stroy­ed in a fi­re tor­na­do on Mon­day 29 Oc­to­ber. P­ho­to: Wes­sel van Heer­den INSET: The o­w­ner of Geel­hout­vlei Tim­bers, Da­ve Me­te­lerk­amp, built up the success­ful sa­w­mill from scra­tch.

The sa­w­mill was a thri­ving en­ter­pri­se be­fo­re the fi­res ca­me. P­ho­to: geel­hout­vlei.co.za

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