Debate on Agriculture

By
Hon. N.P. Msimango, MPL,
KZN Legislature

4 June 2020

 

Hon. Speaker,

The IFP supports the budget allocation of R2.5 billion for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

As the IFP we cannot shy away from the fact that this Department is in shambles and it is a disaster. This was indicative during SCOPA and subsequent Portfolio Committee meetings with the Department, where the officials from this Department had no plan on how they were going to turn around the areas of concern from the Auditor-General’s audit report. Because, for three consecutive years, this Department has received poor audit outcomes. They presented to us unconvincing resolutions that said nothing and we were forced to send the team back to the drawing board. It seems to us that officials of this Department do not take their jobs seriously and treat Legislature Committees like a Tick-Box Exercise. The audit findings of this Department revealed irregular expenditure of R715 million by the Department, as well as R118 million incurred by entities, ADA and Mjindi.

The officials of this Department were expected to present a turnaround strategy on how they will fix the devastating mess in this Department, which includes the following:

  •  Poor response to addressing prior years’ audit findings;
  • A lack of a strategic planning and poor internal controls;
  • Systems not in place to monitor progress toward achieving targets;
  • Under spending of R264 million;Underspending of conditional grants by R40.75 million by ADA;
  • Fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R70 000;Irrecoverable debt by Mjindi of R6 million; and
  • Non-compliance with legislation in procurement processes.

Hon. Speaker, this Department is dysfunctional and if the Hon. MEC and the HOD fail to weed out corruption in this Department, nothing good will come from this Budget. Officials will continue to be paid for nothing. Consequence management and SCM processes are flouted and we are concerned that this Budget will be misused and there will be nothing to show for it again.

The Department is in dire need of strong, capable and competent leadership to dismantle the mafia that is holding this Department back in fulfilling its mandate effectively. To prove that there is rot in this Department, let me remind you Hon. MEC about the corruption that happened in your Department and which no one has been held accountable for until today.

A forensic investigation was launched into how this Department squandered more than R200million of drought-relief funds‚ which was reserved for subsistence farmers and struggling smallholders, after the Province was declared a disaster area following a crippling drought in 2015. Farmers were meant to use funds for water harvesting‚ scooping of dams, rehabilitation of boreholes‚ and provision of stock-feed. The report into this investigation has not been released to the public.

Another forensic report was commissioned by former agriculture MEC Meshack Radebe, after R60 million of taxpayers’ money meant to assist emerging farmers in rural areas around the Province had not been accounted for, in 2012. This investigation‚ which cost R10 million‚ was completed in February 2014‚ but has not been released to the public.

We are extremely concerned that delays appear to be deliberate, undue and unreasonable, and we condemn this lack of progress. The delay in identifying the “perpetrators and masterminds” behind the alleged corrupt activities is undermining the public’s trust in the government. We demand proper, fair and time-bound investigations in this Province. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Ngqongqoshe bangaki abantu asebeboshiwe ngalenkohlakalo kuze kube manje? Lemibiko yenkohlakalo idedelwa nini emiphakathi ngoba abantu abazona iziwula bayazi ukuthi kwenzekani futhi akukaze kuboshwe muntu. Sicela usinike usuku oluqondile lokudedelwa kwalemibiko Mhlonishwa Ngqongqoshe.

Hon. MEC, we urge you to ensure that this Department achieves a clean audit.

2020/21 BUDGET CUTS AND CONDITIONAL GRANTS

The IFP is concerned about the culture of underspending in this Department. Many projects – since 2016/17 financial year and for 2020 – the Department has underspent by R167.86 million. In the last three years it has underspent by almost R1 billion.

Furthermore, it is deeply troubling to us as the IFP, that the Department’s conditional grants were cut by R12.657 million over the MTEF, we, however, note the R297.027 million allocated for four conditional grants.

However, the budget cuts to the conditional grants that will have an impact on the funding of agricultural farm structures, irrigation schemes, seeds etc. at household and smallholder level are a problem to us, as this means trouble and poverty for emerging farmers in rural areas.

We also note the amount of R206.4 million for Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme Grant. We call upon the Hon. MEC to ensure that the tendency by this Department to fail to spend grant funds fully comes to an end. In 2018 this Department failed to spend millions of rand in grants meant to develop farming in rural areas.

The failure to spend the money is almost tantamount to treason. Action must be taken against anyone who fails to ensure that all funds of the Department are spent accordingly.

VACANT POSTS

We commend the Department for prioritising the filling of vacant posts and allocating R92.76 million for filling of vacancies. We have seen many advertised posts in the last few  months. We therefore welcome the allocation of R1. 246 640 million to cater for the planned filling of 194 critical posts, as well as the increase by 144 in the number of UAGYP graduates during the 2020/21 MTEF. The filling of vacant posts must be fast-tracked as this has a negative effect on the functioning of the Department.

The agricultural sector is critical for the economic development of the rural areas and the country as a whole. Therefore, our programmes of rural development – land reform and agrarian reform – must be integrated into a clear strategy that seeks to empower the poor. Higher food prices impact negatively on the purchasing power of the poorest of the poor in our Province. Thus, it is important that this budget should also speak to providing solutions to cushion the poor. Our short-term intervention measures should ensure that they provide safety nets for the poor.

Having said that, the disparities that still exist within our country, especially between the urban and rural areas after almost more than 20 years of democracy are startling. The development of our rural areas has not taken place at a fast-enough pace, and people who live in these areas are still plagued by extreme poverty and a lack of food security. This is an unacceptable situation and the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs must do more to correct the situation and afford the rural areas the required attention, funding and expertise that they need to escape the cycle of poverty in which they are trapped. The Department’s initiatives and programmes aimed at achieving rural development must be re-examined, and if needs be, modified or changed in order to speed up the pace of development in the rural areas.

SEED PRODUCTION UNDER RASETA

We support the initiative by the Department to develop a plan to produce its own seeds and seedlings. In support of the RASETA we urge the Hon. MEC to ensure that black-owned businesses, in particular the youth, women and people with disabilities, especially in rural areas, are benefitting fully in this programme.

PEOPLE LIVING WITH DISABILITIES

The IFP is concerned that this Department seems to be failing to do more to empower people with disabilities. It is shocking that the Hon. MEC doesn’t even speak about how many disabled people are employed by her Department and how many are going to be employed in this current financial year. We don’t hear the Hon. MEC speaking about projects specifically for disabled people. If I may ask from the MEC – how many farms in KwaZulu-Natal are owned by disabled people only? Why is this Department excluding disabled people from participating in agriculture? Disabled people must be given land to farm. They must be provided with skills, finance, markets and equipment. We want to see disabled people becoming commercial farmers and contributing to the economy.

REVITALISATION AND RESUSCITATION OF LAND REFORM FARMS

We commend the Hon. MEC for providing feedback on what progress has been made on this programme. As the IFP in the past we have called for a farm audit – those owned by the youth – to be conducted in order for them to be supported. The IFP says people who owns farms must be provided with skills, markets, financial assistance and equipment. Without necessary support they will not be able to farm. They must be assisted to keep their farms productive.

SUGAR INDUSTRY

The IFP is concerned by the state of sugar industry in KZN. This follows the decisions by Tongaat Hullett to mothball Darnall Sugar Mill, and of Illovo Sugar South Africa (ISSA) that it would be suspending operations at its uMzimkhulu Sugar Mill for the 2020/2021 season. This will still affect the small-scale farmers financially as they may have to transport the sugarcane longer distances, and this will contribute to unemployment. We urge the KZN Department of Agriculture to urgently follow up on the announcement made by President Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation Address that the government has developed a plan with farmers and industrial users to save jobs in the sugar industry, and the government is to finalise a Sugar Master Plan that will assist the struggling sugar industry and prevent job losses.

FARMER SUPPORT

We in the IFP believe that the Department of Agriculture can, and must, increase its efforts to promote the development of the agricultural sector in order to boost production and development, and in turn ensure a stable food supply at reasonable prices. The promotion and development of small-scale and previously disadvantaged farmers must receive particular attention. It is important that this support is qualitative and not based solely on numbers and the need to fulfil and achieve certain numerical or statistical targets. Real support must be forthcoming.

YOUTH IN AGRICULTURE

Sihlalo, uma ngisekulo udaba lwentsha kukhona izinhlaka ezifana KZN Youth in Agriculture and Rural Development (KZN YARD) okuthiwa zimele abantu abasha kodwa umsebenzi wazo asiwuboni ukuthi zenzani futhi zimele baphi abantu abasha. Lenhlangano sizwa kuthiwa iholwa uMnu Noah Nyawo oyinhloko yenhlangano ebizwa ngokuthi Ikusasa Lethu Youth in Agriculture. Sikholwa ukuthi izicagogwana zezinhlangano ezifuze lena zenziwa ngenhloso yokuhlomulisa abathize ngezimali zabakhokhi-ntela. Kuyihlazo ukuthi abantu abasha ezindaweni zasemakhaya abazi lutho ngale-KZN YARD ukuthi yini umsebenzi wayo. Bengicela uNgqongqoshe ake asitshele ukuthi bangaki abantu abasha futhi bakuziphi izindawo asebehlomule ngokuba khona kwale-YARD?

AMAKHOSI ON AGRICULTURE

Ngonyaka ka-2017 ngesikhathi uNgqongqoshe kusenguMhlonishwa uThemba Mthembu wamemezela ukuthi amakhosi azohlomula ngohlelo lwezinkomo zamaNguni kepha kuze kube manje lolohlelo alucaci ukuthi ngabe azokhethwa kanjani lawomakhosi. Okwesibili, waphinde wamemezela ukuthi kunoR23 million wokunxephezela abafelwa imfuyo kuhle uNgqongqoshe asitshele ukuthi malini esisebenzile kuloluhlelo futhi bangaki abalimi abahlomulile? Okwesithathu, waphinde wamemezela ukuthi bazokwakha imitholampilo yemfuyo maduze kanye nohlelo lwezingcingo lapho umphakathi uzokwazi ukubika khona izinkinga kodwa namanje asizwa lutho ngalezinhlelo. Kungakuhle Ngqongqoshe ukuthi njengoba sekunguwe osuhlezi esihlalweni uke ucacise kabanzi  ngalezinhlelo ukuthi zikusiphi isigaba njengamanje.

Ngiyathokoza.