ARCHAIC CISKEI DECREE IS KILLING FORT COX AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE

An outdated decree which is yet to be repealed has left the Fort Cox Agricultural College in a confusing time warp dating back to the days of the former Ciskei. Under the decree, issued in 1991 and which remains in place, the administration and control of the college falls under the regulation of the Republic of Ciskei. This notorious decree must be repealed as a matter of urgency to ensure the future of this college.

Fort Cox College of Agriculture is responsible for producing future agriculturists to help the province in its quest to address the skills shortage in this field. The Eastern Cape depends on agriculture for its economy and for putting food on the tables of the people of the Eastern Cape, especially the rural poor.

Rural development and agricultural production are key areas of potential job creation in the Eastern Cape. Institutions like Fort Cox play an essential role in providing support to farmers, such as extension officers, to improve food security and agricultural production.

I will, on behalf of the DA, table a motion at the next sitting of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature that the decree be repealed and that relevant policies to manage the college are formulated and instituted as a matter of urgency.

This issue has been dragging on for many years. We must act now to save the college from collapse. The fact that the decree remains in place has resulted in:

  • The decree places Fort Cox under the Department of Education where it has been grossly neglected. It should fall under the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform. Neither departments want to take on responsibility due to the “Ciskei arrangement” and the college has been regarded as a no-go-area;
  • Delays in payments to the college because money must be paid via the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform;
  • A shortage of funding has led to the college owing large amounts to SARS and to the pension- and medical aid funds of lecturers and employees;
  • Lecturers and employees cannot access standard government benefits;
  • Lecturers and employees are regularly paid late due to funding shortfalls;
  • The withdrawal of student bursaries that were issued by the Office of the Premier.

The provincial government has been aware of this problematic decree for years and promises to have it repealed have been made several times. In May this year, during a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, the department even said there was a task team set up to look into the repeal and to formulate policies to guide the college, for completion in June. Yet nothing has happened.

The DA will remain committed to this issue to ensure the proper running of the college and to boost the morale of the lecturers. Most importantly we want to see Fort Cox making a meaningful contribution in boosting the agricultural economy of the province. We need these colleges to remain open and effective and turning out people with the necessary skills.