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Cape legislature debates whether to interrupt recess over Tiger Brands closure

Workers at fruit business Langeberg and Ashton Foods (LAF), a division of Tiger Consumer Brands Ltd. Tags: fruit factory, fruit packaging, canning. Picture: Langeberg and Ashton Foods/YouTube

Workers at fruit business Langeberg and Ashton Foods (LAF), a division of Tiger Consumer Brands Ltd. Tags: fruit factory, fruit packaging, canning. Picture: Langeberg and Ashton Foods/YouTube

Published Jun 28, 2022

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Cape Town - Whether or not members of the agriculture standing committee should interrupt their recess period to intervene in the matter of the imminent closure of Tiger Brands’ Langeberg and Ashton fruit canning factory was the source of a heated exchange in the legislature.

Tiger Brands last week said it had embarked on a parallel consultation process with employees and the province regarding the future of its troubled deciduous fruit business Langeberg and Ashton Foods (LAF).

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While members agreed that the resultant 4 500 job losses and economic impact of the closure should be tackled, they were divided over whether they should wait for the ongoing processes by the province to come to an end or to begin a parallel process.

Committee member Derrick America (DA) said there were more and more standing committees requesting to have meetings during the recess, also referred to as a constituency period.

He said if this was to become the trend, they might as well dispense with the constituency period altogether.

Freedom Front Plus MPL Peter Marais said for members to be concerned about going on recess at such a crucial time was reckless.

“I don't know if members of this committee have acquainted themselves with the extent of the disaster that’s awaiting us.

“If they think that constituency week where you go around meeting your constituents is more important than this is ridiculous.”

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America said he took umbrage at Marais’ comments, calling them “rhetorical populism” and saying he took them neither seriously nor kindly.

Committee member Gillion Bosman (DA) said that as the province was already handling the matter, it should be given space to try and find a solution.

Committee chairperson Andricus van der Westhuizen (DA) said it was impossible to ignore that there might have been external factors that contributed to the imminent closure of the factory.

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However, he said it was important for all the relevant parties to stay in their lanes.

In the end the committee resolved to express their concerns about the potential job losses; to hold a joint meeting with the finance standing committee on the issue and to invite the agriculture department to address them on the impact of the closure of the canning factory.

Cosatu has called for urgent intervention and wants the company to review the decision and explore alternatives to shutting down the factory.

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The trade union federation was due to hold a meeting with stakeholders in Langeberg on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Langeberg municipal manager Asa de Klerk said the municipality would be impacted mostly by the loss of revenue and the increase of indigent households if the factory closed down.

De Klerk said: “Small, medium and micro-enterprises will no longer be able to do business. Contractors, suppliers, local farmers and the staff, both permanent and temporary, who depend on LAF will also be negatively affected.”

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