Budget Vote Debate- Extended Public Committee
Inkosi RN Cebekhulu, MP
With this department receiving only a nominal increase in budget allocation for the 2016/2017 year and when contrasted against the immediate challenges that this department faces, this amount is a mere drop in the ocean and we are accordingly not confident that the department will reach many of the goals it has set itself for the ensuing year.
Of the many challenges it faces we wish to highlight the following in the hope that they will receive most urgent departmental attention:
Poaching in our marine conservancy areas and along our coastlines in general remains rife, with certain species of fish, abalone and rock lobster now reaching critical depopulation levels. Not enough is being done to stem this advancing tide of poaching of our marine life. We are still leasing privately owned vessels in order to police and patrol our marine areas. Marine conservancy and policing must receive proper and adequate funding otherwise we cannot hope to make any substantial impact against poaching.
In respect of commercial fishing licences and permits we also note with great concern the plight of our subsistence fishermen who advise that they are being side-lined when it comes to the issue of commercial fishing licences in favour of large commercial fishing operations. How do we expect to take our people out of poverty when we handicap them in this manner by not allowing them to compete with large commercial fishing operations for the issue of licences.
If we turn to land based agriculture, we see that crop farming has seen a recent upsurge in new entrants to this field on all levels, subsistence, emerging and commercial farmers. However the department treats these classes differently when it comes to providing technical and other assistance. Such inequality negatively impacts our food security and must be addressed.
Smallholder farmers are struggling to work their farms as there are many financial challenges which become obstacles to progress. Shortages of extension officers and skilled technical advice and assistance to farmers is also leading to arable farming land becoming unproductive. Recent natural disasters have only added to these challenges, and here I am referring to the horrific drought that has badly damaged both agricultural and animal farming practice in South Africa.
The continued use of herbicides such as glyphosate being sprayed by the police in the Eastern Cape to eradicate cannabis plants traditionally grown on the wild coast is destroying soil fertility and crops in the adjacent subsistence farming lands placing food security in the area at great risk.
Technical assistance to farmers through the provision of specialized equipment such as the provision of tractors to subsistence farmers which they could use to plough communal farming areas is no longer operative. This is due largely to the tractors being un-serviced. When is the Department going to attend to this programme?
Our larger commercial farming operations are also finding it increasingly difficult when competing with farmers from other countries who are obtaining subsidies from their governments as this is making them more competitive in international markets and pricing our farmers out of the market.
Lastly, I wish to raise the issue of this Department having for some time now an “Acting” DG – a ship cannot be rudderless, this position must be filled as a matter of urgency.
I thank you.
Hon. Inkosi RN Cebekhulu, MP
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IFP Media, Parliament