The doors of a superb multimillion-rand poultry abattoir built by the provincial government in Grahamstown a cost of more than R7-million some four years ago currently stands forlorn, unused and empty.The abattoir was built for the benefit of locals.
The Democratic Alliance’s shadow MEC for Economic Development Jane Cowley yesterday said there was foul play afoot, claiming not a single chicken had passed through the doors of the abattoir since a substantial injection of cash from the rural development and agrarian reform department led to the construction of the smart building in the industrial area in 2013.
A visit by the Dispatch yesterday showed the once-pristine building to be clogged with weeds. The access road had become so overgrown it had virtually disappeared.
But department spokesman Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha rubbished the DA’s claims, saying the building had only been empty and unused for the past seven months.
He said between January and March some birds had been slaughtered at the abattoir. However, he said not enough birds were produced to reach the abattoir’s capacity of 2000 a day and the department was constructing more poultry structures for identified farmers. This had been delayed by environmental impact assessment processes, further curtailing the supply of slaughter-ready poultry to the abattoir.
He predicted the recent avian flu outbreak might further slow poultry production by the growers feeding the abattoir as their parent stock had been affected by culling.
“The department is engaging a number of interested institutions, including leading retail stores, to partner with us in making commercial use of the abattoir on top of the work that will be done when the poultry structures produce the required number of birds for slaughter.”
Ideally, he said 21 planned poultry structures should produce a sustainable total of 3300 birds each allowing the facility to slaughter some 2000 birds a day.
Cowley said the 26 permanent jobs promised to the local community had never materialised and the 278 earmarked beneficiaries had not benefited in any way.
The envisaged beneficiaries were meant to comprise 149 women, 68 youths and six disabled people.
In 2013 then-MEC for rural development and agriculture in the Eastern Cape Zoleka Capa announced that the department would engage the Mbizana local municipality to facilitate off-take agreements with communities to ensure a constant supply of poultry to the local abattoir.