Chairperson, hon Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr Malusi Gigaba, Your Excellencies Ministers and Deputy Ministers, distinguished Members of Parliament, the director- general, senior officials and staff of the department, chairpersons and chief executive officers of state-owned companies, esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen, in this centenary year of the ANC I wish to dedicate my address to all those visionary men, women, intellectuals, traditional leaders, workers, peasants, revolutionaries, innovators and pioneers who were brave enough to think differently, bold enough to think that they can change South Africa and talented enough to do so. Our democracy is founded on their sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears. They shall live forever in our hearts and memories.
We are today grappling with the idea to reconstruct our country and to extend the dividend of democracy and freedom to all - a responsibility bequeathed to us by those who came before us.
Today, I will report to you on the progress of the entities under my care, my reflections on their operations and their plans for the future.
Our active monitoring of state-owned companies entails keeping a close watch on matters of governance, performance and board appointments, to ensure the identification of potential challenges early and to mitigate them swiftly.
There are, however, external factors beyond our control that also have a critical bearing on the performance of these companies. Some entities like Alexkor, for instance, which are in the commodities sector, are affected by global demand, and any sluggish growth or challenges in the economic climate.
We continue to improve our oversight management of these entities. It is the department's ongoing goal to ensure the implementation of proper governance systems within each entity by strict adherence to the Public Finance Management Act and the entity's founding legislation. A critical part of our shareholder oversight is to create alignment by each entity to government's objectives.
With regard to Alexkor, we are continuing to implement the court order regarding Richtersveld. To date, all Alexkor and government-owned land, including land mining rights have been transferred, excluding the township erven. The pooling and sharing joint venture between Alexkor and the community has been established. An amount of R350 million has been allocated in our budget, in respect of Alexkor in terms of the deed of settlement.
Alexkor, however, requires a paradigm shift. This entails exploring opportunities for downstream beneficiation to contribute to the creation of new jobs, the development of requisite skills, investment in research and development, economic growth, sustainable development and cost-effective support for the broader priorities of government.
This strategy seeks to ensure the company's long-term viability, whilst contributing to the socioeconomic upliftment and development of the Richtersveld region.
A blot, however, on Alexkor's clean sheet has been the matter of its inadequate oversight of the Alexkor Development Foundation, which was established in 1993. The trust has experienced governance challenges over the years, attributed to mismanagement by trustees who are members of the Richtersveld community. This includes failure to provide financial statements of the trust to Alexkor and to recover monies owed to the trust. The department has intervened and reported the matter to the Master of the High Court.
A meeting with the Master of the High Court is scheduled for 31 May 2012, where we will explore, firstly, the removal and replacement of current trustees; secondly, the termination of the trust; and thirdly, any other legal recourse.
Alexkor's distinctive competitiveness remains its quality of diamonds and its unique land and marine mineral resources. We need to leverage the skills and expertise housed within Alexkor, to position it as a major player in its sector, both locally and continentally.
With regard to Aventura, hon members will recall that in 2001, the government decided to dispose of its noncore assets such as Aventura Resorts. After years of protracted litigation by parties, the department has made significant progress in transferring and registering most Aventura Resorts in the names of their rightful purchasers. An annual general meeting is scheduled for 28 May, where a resolution to have the company liquidated by the sole shareholder will be passed.
The SA Forestry Company Limited, Safcol, continues to contribute to rural welfare and development. It presently provides approximately 2 200 permanent jobs and 2 000 contractual jobs, in rural areas in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, which are characterised by high levels of unemployment.
The department is presently assessing different business models and institutional structures, through which the developmental impact of Safcol's human and financial resources can be optimised. The conclusion of this exercise will provide certainty for the business and a clear direction for the company's operations. Consultation with key stakeholders is in progress. Downstream economic activities in rural areas to create jobs and provide skills from timber milling to furniture manufacture are focal areas.
Furthermore, as approximately 61% of land under Safcol's operation is under land claims, the department is playing a proactive role in facilitating the resolution of these claims through effective interdepartmental co- operation. The past year's preliminary results show that Safcol will be posting a profit. A key focus for the year ahead lies in ensuring improved financial and commercial sustainability.
The SA Forestry Company Limited is challenged to explore opportunities and options to ensure its continued sustainability. In this context, the company is examining vertical integration and expansion of its operations outside South Africa. Its expansionary potential is also in the green economy and carbon trading.
This will enable it to explore the possibility to partner with Eskom on biomass and with SAA, SA Express and Transnet on carbon trading. All these matters will be finalised between Safcol and the department in this financial year.
Matters with regard to the pebble bed modular reactor, PBMR, are also on track and the PBMR will remain under the care and maintenance of Eskom until 2013, when the future of the PBMR will be finalised.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Minister of Public Enterprises for his leadership and stewardship of the department. I would also like to thank the director-general of the department, Mr Tshediso Matona, for his diligence and professionalism and the department's senior management and staff for their dedication and work ethic. I thank you. [Applause.]