SPEECH BY ATHOL TROLLIP, MPL DEBATE ON BUDGET FOR 2013/14 FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND AGRARIAN REFORM – 19 JUNE 2013

Hon Speaker & Hon. Colleagues

Having spent the last year and a half serving on the National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform as well as being an alternate member of the Portfolio Committee of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, I am really quite excited to again serve on this Standing Committee as this is where my real interest and passion lies.

I have developed an important “birds eye” perspective about what is happening in this province with regard to agriculture and rural development during my tenure in the National Assembly and the picture that has crystalized in my mind is not one that inspires any confidence in that we are getting this important issue right despite Hon. Qoboshiyans claims of magnificent success that he said we were gain saying. One of the first things I did when appointed to these portfolios was to embark on a road trip with my colleague, the Shadow Minister of Agriculture, to visit the former “homeland” irrigation schemes of Ncora, Qamata Shiloh, Bilatye and Keiskammahoek that I found to be in varying stages of dilapidation, revitalization and recapitalization. We also visited various successful private public agricultural projects such as Middeldrift and Fort Hare dairy trust. Our trip culminated with a visit to what can only be described as two chalk and cheese initiatives, namely the apparently successful Ncera Macadamia project and the clearly failing neighboring Ncera farms project.

This visit and numerous follow-up visits served to confirm that, where there is investment based on risk and reward coupled with accountable management, there is success. Where these core principles don’t exist, we encounter repetitive failure.

The Auditor General’s report in the 2011/12 annual report is a testimony to failure as reflected in his qualified audit report.

The Auditor General refers to the lack of supporting documentation regarding departmental commitments, over statement of lease commitments and no evidence confirming completeness of lease commitments of R135, 8 million and irregular expenditure of R13, 9 million. The list goes on and on.

 

My main concern though is the fact that this department could only provide evidence that it achieved only 10% of its planned targets and the fact that there was no credible information required to validate the actual performance of 81% of programme 3%, farmer’s support and development and 81% of programme 4, veterinary services. This Hon. Deputy Speaker is nothing to be proud of as you stated yesterday.

I raise this finding for a specific reason as it relates directly to a recent “directive” from National Government whereby the department is directed to redirect 70% of programme three’s budget to focus on LITSEMA, crop production focused on food production and food security.

This directive is very interesting if considered against the report by the department’s former superintendent General Glen Thomas’s report where he emphasized that “The Eastern Cape is the livestock province in the country and is home to 21% of South Africa’s cattle, 28% of its sheep and 46% of its goats. “This situation is determined by the arid nature of this province and any ideas aimed at turning it into a primarily crop producing province will be faced with the same results as those seen in the failed dry land cotton production initiative in this province.

The MEC endeavored to explain the enormous potential for high maize yields in the Somerset East area, when she was trying to motivate this enormous budgetary and APP shift, it is simply that, potential, because without adequate water and electricity for irrigation, the majority of this province simply cannot sustain profitable agricultural or cropping enterprises.

The directive to redirect 70% (R354 million of the R506 million budget) of the CASP funding is folly as the likelihood of improved agricultural production is a pipe dream without an adequate and supporting agricultural infrastructure and supportive extension and advisory services. The lack of these has to date been the Achilles heel of this department’s effort to improve agricultural production and outputs in, especially the communal land areas where people eke out a sub optimal and unsustainable subsistence existence.

MEC if you are really concerned about food and fibre security in this province, you need to improve your relationship with the commercial farmers of this province, both black and white and the various commodity and stakeholder organizations, black and white. Your record in this regard is more than lamentable as your disdain and disregard of them is unparalleled even in comparison to your predecessors such as Max Mamase. Despite your denial of having any knowledge of appeals from Agri Eastern Cape for requests for meetings to discuss the state of this industry, they have proven that you chose rather to ignore their requests for meetings despite having received numerous requests from them. These farmer organizations and commodity organizations even complain about this situation within the National Assembly Portfolio Committee.

We have enormous potential to be self-sufficient with regard to food and fibre production in this province. In this regard only I concur with Hon. Matomela. In fact we can even produce surplus food and fibre for export in order to earn valuable foreign exchange. This can and will only happen if you build a relationship of cooperation based on trust and policy security amongst existing commercial farmers and emerging farmers.

Your own personal experience as a mayor of a district municipality and its failed land reform and rural development programme should serve as a salutary example of the difference between success (such as your department’s partnership with Amadlelo Agri) and failure (such as the Cedarville farms acquired by you and the Kangela scandal in the Sundays River valley that is the legacy of Max Mamase.

The MTEF budget presentation by the portfolio committee on provincial planning and treasury tabled on the 11 June 2013 shows figures that are simply not coherent nor consistant with this departmental budget and the Directive from National government.

They refer to a food security programme through ploughing and crop production of R38 million.

They refer to farm infrastructure and other infrastructure projects

• X2 irrigation schemes R8,9 million

• Fencing of 542 km R16,6 million

• X12 dipping tanks R4,6 million

• Grahamstwon poultry abattoir R3 million

• And lastly but not least, the revitalization of agricultural colleges R11,1

The question is, if none of these expenditure as per the MTRF is to happen or if it will happen, what will happen and to which schemes and which agricultural colleges?

 

MEC when will you employ an SG? Because MEC you cannot be allowed to run this department as a sole propriety, which is probably what you would like to do. This leads me to also believe that the termination of employment contract of the CFO, Ms Sibanyoni, was probably a case of constructive dismal in order to get her out of the way.

Another issue of concern is that the tractor provisioning in this province does not follow the department’s own mechanization policy and they are delivered to certain projects only to be rerouted elsewhere and often the supposed provision of new tractors is replaced with reconditioned tractors. This initiative coupled with interminable and perennial recapitalization and revitalization of schemes has become the proverbial trough at which corrupt officials and contractors feed, this is happening on your watch, MEC

MEC, you will have to ensure that your department’s rural development strategy is linked to that of the NDP because you are not entitled to implement your own development strategy at your own indignation.

In conclusion MEC, this department will have to stop throwing good money after bad in perennially revitalizing irrigation schemes. One such example is Magwa where hundreds of millions have been wasted and yet the estate remains unsustainable due to a distinct lack of effective management and proper accountability. This estate has a land claim lodged against it too boot. This is but one example of enduring failure for which you must accept responsibility.

Against this background the DA cannot support this budget.