KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu has commended the trustees of the SITFE who have invested more than R50 million towards the education of disadvantaged children since its inception.
“It is quite encouraging that over the past 50 years the Fund has assisted thousands of disadvantaged students. Some of the students have gone on to become respected intellectuals, leaders of society and academics in different fields.
“These include Judge President of the Western Cape Judge John Hlophe, whose mother was a farm worker and Dr May Mashego-Mkhize, her husband Dr Zweli Mkhize, the former KZN Premier and current ANC Treasurer- General of the ANC and current Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande,” Premier Mchunu said.
The Premier said the celebration of the 50 years of the Trust is a clear indication that all these years the stakeholders in the sugar industry have been aware that the levels of poverty mean that many youth with potential to develop would be hampered by the inability of parents to fund their educational advancement.
“As government we have long stated that the ability to compete in the global front is dependent on training and mentoring. Unfortunately the reality in our country and KZN in particular is that the wealth of the child's family is very likely to determine that child's access to a decent education.”
Direct employment within the sugar industry is approximately 79 000 jobs, which represents a significant percentage of the total agricultural workforce in South Africa. Indirect employment is estimated at 350 000.
In addition, there are approximately 29 130 registered cane growers. Approximately one million people, more than 2% of South Africa's population depend on the sugar industry for a living.
The Premier said the long term goal is for the agricultural sector to be strengthened to create jobs and maximise export potential.
He also added that government has committed itself to intensifying the rehabilitation of emerging farmers who acquired land from land reform processes and to providing mentorship and capacity building.