Charl Senekal Suiker Trust, which has 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) of irrigated cane land and is a grower for Tongaat Hulett Ltd., is part of a group that plans to build a 16.5 megawatt biomass facility in KwaZulu-Natal, according to a presentation on the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s website. Talks to settle claims by four communities bordering part of his farm will take place on Friday, Charl Senekal, the white owner, said by phone on Wednesday.
The government of Africa’s most industrialized economy is promoting agriculture and providing access to land as part of redistribution policies to compensate black South Africans for the seizure of property under white-minority rule that ended in 1994. At the same time, the country is turning to renewable energy as it struggles to meet power demand after failing to invest in generation even as the government expanded supply to millions of households.
“The whole project can collapse if they don’t accept our offer,” Senekal said, declining to give details because they are private. “We’ve made a very reasonable proposal to the government and we hope that this will be successful. I am sure it will be accepted. It’s a great project.”
Work on the plant in Mkuze is scheduled to start in August if all the communities agree to the offer, with the first electricity to be produced 22 months later, Senekal said. It may create about 400 jobs, and the project will be able to repay its debt in eight years, he said. All four of the community groups need to support the plan for it to go ahead, he said. South Africa has a 24.3 percent unemployment rate.
The development must continue regardless of the outcome of the claim, Dumisani Myeni, chairman of Silwane Trust, established to handle the claims, said by phone from Mkuze. Community groups will be open to leasing the land should the claim succeed. The groups include the Myeni, Ngwenya and Zulu tribes.