LU­MI­NANCE: RU­RAL WOMEN IN THE DARK ON SHARES

Sunday World - - Front Page - SIXOLISIWE NDAWO Ad­di­tional re­port­ing Boi­tumelo Tlhoaele

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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