LUMINANCE: RURAL WOMEN IN THE DARK ON SHARES
LUMINANCE S feted rural empowerment partners have not signed shareholding contracts and none of them have orders to provide the high-end store with stock.
One partner had no idea who Khanyi Dhlomo or the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) was.
NEF head of marketing and communications Moemise Motsepe confirmed that as part of the agreement to fund Dhlomo’s Ndalo Luxury Ventures (NLV), the shareholding for rural women was increased from 2% to 10%.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies issued an edict this week that government funds may not be used to support the importation of finished goods and services.
Motsepe said the NEF engaged with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism, as well as Mintek, to help identify and recommend eligible cooperatives to supply arts and crafts, assume active shareholding in NLV, and facilitate training.
These co-operatves included Vukani Arts and Crafts Co-operative in Nongoma, Nkosimbeke Cooperative in Mahlabathini, Ababumbi Co-operative and Zan Zan Decor in Pietermaritzburg, and Simunye Handcraft and Jewellery in KwaNyuswa.
This week Sunday World crisscrossed rural KwaZulu-Natal and found the organisations full or hope, but with no proof of their claimed involvement.
Phindile Zanomkhize (46), owner of Zan Zan Decor, is listed as a “rural woman ” beneficiary. At her suburban home, Zanomkhize, a qualified interior decorator, said: “Luminance in Hyde Park never ordered anything from me. Khanyi Dhlomo came here with the National Empowerment Fund people… and took photographs. I’m still waiting to hear from them again.
“We met a couple of weeks ago and we are still waiting for the real deal. For now, it’s all been talk.”
Zanomkhize said Dhlomo had said she wanted to work with cooperatives: “I have since registered it as such now and I am waiting.”
Just north-west of Durban is KwaNyuswa village, where Simunye Handcraft and Jewellery is based. The crafters use two white containers as makeshift working stations and gas tanks for power. There is no running water, toilet facilities or electricity.
When Sunday World visited them, they were waiting for a fellow bead maker to bring gas tanks so that they could finish their work.
When Ntombentle Magwaza and Pattern Mkhize heard that they were shareholders in the luxury boutique, Magwaza said: “No, not yet. There is a woman called Nokhuthula from the NEF who called us and told us about a store that was opening in Johannesburg. ”
This Nokhuthula is said to have taken samples from the women; that was the last time they heard from her. Some of their handiwork can be found at the Hyde Park Luminance store, where a bottle stopper sells for R200, serving/salad spoons for R700 and a silver meat tray for R1 700. Magwaza and Mkhize were shocked to hear of such prices.
The women of Simunye say they have not seen or spoken to Dhlomo: “We were promised 5%, but have not signed anything. We are still waiting, ” said Magwaza. No orders for any of their products have been made.
The women said they had no idea how Dhlomo knew of them. “We are on the municipal database, so maybe that is where she heard of us.”
Sthemele Nzuza (28) looked confused when we asked him about Dhlomo and Luminance.
“I don’t understand,” he said, sitting in his wheelchair with a pink towel wrapped around his legs.
Nzuza is the chairman of the Vukani Arts and Crafts Centre in Nongoma that is said to be a beneficiary of the empowerment deal. The centre, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, is run by the community and teaches disabled people how to draw, do bead work, and make mats and cutlery.
“I don’t want to lie, I’ve never heard of them (Khanyi Dhlomo and the NEF’s Nokhuthula). Maybe it’s people that call themselves us, but it’s not us.”
Nzuza, who supports his six siblings, runs the Vukani Arts and Crafts Centre with Bekuyise Mabanga.
“For now, we just make but have not sold anything to any one.”
Nzuza could not understand how they were linked with Luminance: “Nothing is passed without the vote and consent of the committee, which is made up of seven people and none of them has mentioned this. It’s the first time I hear of it.”
Bead maker Samkelisiwe Zungu showed us her work. Sometimes, she said, finishing the work was difficult because they didn’t have enough money for beads.
In Pietermaritzburg, Ababumbi ceramic maker Thandiwe Ntuli said the 10% share of NLV had been “nothing but talk and all in the air”. Three women from the NEF came to see Ntuli and told her of shares she would own in NLV. Nokhuthula visited Ntuli at her workshop.
“They said they were working for Khanyi Dhlomo and they were looking for people that would be shareholders at a store that was going to open which would sell clothes. They also said there was a site that would sell our goods there,” said Ntuli.
Nothing had been signed on paper to prove that they had a stake in the boutique or that they had an agreement, she said. “We haven’t signed anything, it was all talk and it ended there.”
Ntuli met Dhlomo at the next meeting in Durban. “In the second meeting, we never spoke much about shares; it was more about our products as the store was already open by then. They wanted to see our products.”
Like most of the women who were visited by Nokhuthula, Ntuli is confused about how it would work, what it would mean for them and how they would make money.
“She (Khanyi Dhlomo) said that in the 10% that is available, KZN would get 5% and other co-operatives which are in Johannesburg, I think, would get the other 5%,” she said.
Ababumbi, like the other organisations, has limited resources. “We are suffering – you saw the conditions that we work under… We work with passion even though we don’t have any funding, as we fear being unemployed,” she said.
When Sunday World asked for a response from the NEF on the women ’ s claims, Motsepe said: “Regrettably, it appears Sunday World has not engaged with the respective chairpersons, with whom the NEF has been in regular and constant liaison.
“It is reasonable and conceivable that the other members of the cooperatives may not be fully appraised of the progress to date, but this does not detract from the fact that this is a genuine, groundbreaking and forwardlooking partnership. The NEF, and not NLV, is responsible for the process of contracting and training the rural women shareholders, and this is in progress and is well within the time frame.
“Five percent has already been allocated to five KZN community women and disabled groups who are arts and crafts manufacturers. The Gauteng Department of Economic Development is assisting the NEF with identifying co-operatives for the remaining 5%. All is progressing well and the 10% equity is presently being warehoused by the NEF.”
Motsepe said a trust would be registered and shares transferred by October.
Luminance’s public relations manager, Khensani Mashamba, declined to comment.
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