24 October 2016
Black farmers tells Minister Zenzeni Zokwana to get his house in order
Government farmer support and the slow pace of land reform are currently under scrutiny at the 2016 AFASA and NERPO joint Annual Congress underway in Pretoria, St George Hotel and Conference Centre – Irene. Minister Senzeni Zokwana this morning received a petition from the farmers outlining their struggles and demands from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’s (DAFF) farmer support programmes.
According to Western Cape AFASA President Mr Ismael Motala, the Western Cape accounts for 55% of South Africa’s fresh produce export, mainly fruit, but unfortunately it is not possible to say what percentage of this produce is from black farmers. Mr Motala said the major commodities of the province are deciduous fruit and wine, however there are no black commercial farmers in these commodities. “In fact there are 538 wine cellars in the province, none are Black owned, even the Mandela wines are from white farmers and wine cellars,” said Mr Motala. He said the Western Cape’s Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), a DAFF programme aimed at assisting black farmers,is only allocated R125million. “In order to get Black farmers into the agricultural economy of the province, there needs to be a serious intervention.The current CASP allocation is nothing but funding for failure. What the farmer needs is a funding regime that ensures financial viability in the shortest space of time,” Mr Motala lashed out. “I understand that there is a political challenge between national government and the province, however it is unfair on our farmers for politicians to play political games with their lives for political point scoring,” he added.
Gauteng AFASA chairperson, Mr Alfred Mahlangu said DAFF seems to have run out of ideas on how to support black farmers. In what he called an advice to Minister Zokwana, Mr Mahlangu said government need not to go far for addressing the issue of farmer support. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to address our challenges. You just have to copy from what the National Party in the apartheid government did for white commercial farmers which is the result of what the commercial agriculture industry is today, supplying almost 90% of the National agricultural output,” said Mr Mahlangu.
Mr Aggrey Mahanjana, AFASA Secretary General said financial support from government is scattered all over the place, with each department and other government owned entities with interest in the agricultural sector running their programmes parallel to each other. “All financial support provided by the state should be coordinated through one institution, and in such a manner that it can leverage private sector funding,” recommended Mr Mahanjana.
He further said government was overspending under the current procurement processes. “Procurement for inputs and infrastructure must be done by farmers and not government or consultants on behalf of farmers,” he added.
In response, Minister Zokwana said he agreed with the farmers on their concerns. Mr Zokwana said the procurement issue is a serious one. He said in an assessment done by the Director General, Mr Mike Mlengana, the department found that same services or items cost less in other provinces while in others cost three times higher. “Mr Mlengana suggested that we look at centralising the department’s procurement process,” said Mr Zokwana. He added that they recently found that the department has a lot of its own farm or agricultural equipment, such as borehole drilling machines. “But these are not used because everything is done through a tendering system,” explained the Minister.
Minister Zokwana admitted that department’s extension services department is not up to scratch and needed some turning around. He said there were cases where funds budgeted for extension services are redirected elsewhere due to lack of capacity in the unit.
Minister Zokwana agreed to a well-coordinated farmer support programme. “Hence we are discussing with the department of rural development and land reform and saying, their task is to transfer the land to black farmers and the inputs and farmer support task must be left with us so that we don’t have these two departments doing the same thing,” said Minister Zokwana.
Currently, DAFF and DRDLR are running various farmer support programmes such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and Ilima/Letsema, from DAFF, and Agri Parks and Recapitalization and Development Programme (RECAP) from DRDLR, which takes a sizable portion of both the departments’ budgets. For 2016/17 alone, more than R2 billion of DAFF’s R6 billion budget went to CASP and Letsema, while DRDLR Agri-parks alone got a budget of R2 billion.
“However, there is very little evidence in how these programmes, and the ones that came before them has impacted on the black farmers and their contribution to the country’s total agricultural output,” says Mr Mahanjana. “In South Africa, it is estimated that commercial (white) farmers produce more than eighty percent of the food on the shelves while a big chunk on the remaining twenty percent comes as imports,” explains Mr Mahanjana. “The question then is, billions of Rands later, how is this possible?”
It is against this back-round that farmers will demonstrate their dissatisfaction and frustrations by holding a peaceful march tomorrow (Tuesday 25th October 2016) from 10h00. “About 500 farmers will lead a procession forming a convoy of farm vehicles (tractors, trucks, quad bikes etc.) from the St Georges Hotel and Conference Centre to the Union Buildings to submit the petition and list of demands to the President,” concluded Mr Mahanjana.
The Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Mr GugileNkwinti will be engaging with the farmers this afternoon.
The Conference continue until tomorrow (Tuesday) 25th October 2016.
Mr Aggrey Mahanjana
Secretary General/Managing Director
African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA)
Tel: +27 (0)12 348 8566
Cell: +27 (0)82 556 7297