Democratic Alliance oversight visits to state-funded agricultural projects in the Eastern Cape have revealed a disturbing picture of neglect by government.
I have today written to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Senzeni Zokwana, to demand answers as to why so little has happened despite the budget transfers of millions upon millions of Rands to these projects.
It was clear from the several projects visited by DA Eastern Cape Leader Athol Trollip and I that no progress has been made in the 3 years since our first visit in January 2012.
Minister Zokwana must account for the state of the following projects:
Magwa and Majola tea plantations:
There has been no plucking of tea at all this season, despite the season having commenced in September 2014. The plucking season ends in March 2015 and there is absolutely no sign that any harvesting will take place by then. Further, thousands of workers have not been paid for up to 13 months although more than R200 million has been pumped into the plantations in the last few years.
Ncora irrigation scheme:
Planting by the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency has been delayed and little prospect of harvesting is predicted. Irrigation canals and holding dams are in urgent need of repair, and maintenance overhauling has not been done for years.
Fort Cox agricultural college:
The farm at this training facility is in an appalling condition and must receive urgent attention. This farm has obviously been neglected over the years and no practical experience can be provided to students under the current conditions.
A primary reason for the state of these projects is the lack of funding provided by the DAFF to small-scale farmers.
It has previously been reported to Parliament’s portfolio committee that approximately R136 million was repatriated to the National Revenue Fund on instruction of National Treasury after the DAFF failed to effectively utilise the funds.
A further R228.6 million was repatriated to the National Revenue Fund on the instruction of National Treasury following payouts that could not be made by the AgriBEE Fund due to lack of required supporting documentation.
This mismanagement runs counter to government’s responsibility to create an enabling environment for agriculture by providing finances and support to deserving projects. The National Development Plan projects that 1 million jobs could be created in this sector but this will remain a pipe dream if the circumstances we encountered on our oversight are allowed to continue.
Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Source : Democratic Alliance