Government fails to act in drought-stricken regions of the province

The Democratic Alliance is extremely concerned about the disaster management officials’ lack of urgency in addressing the urgent crisis of drought-stricken regions in the province.

It has come to our attention that the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) has postponed yet another planned visit to the drought-stricken Joe Gqabi District Municipality for the fourth time!

The Joe Gqabi district has been declared a drought disaster area and the declaration to this effect was gazetted on November 25, 2015. It is the responsibility of the NDMC to visit the area to assess the impact of drought in order for provinces to submit funding requests to National Treasury.

This task team was supposed to conduct an assessment on 7 December, 14 December and 21 December 2015. We have now been informed that it has been postponed to late January. This is simply unacceptable as dying livestock cannot be expected to postpone their distress until departmental officials return from their holidays. Immediate action is needed in order to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

Not only has Joe Gqabi been declared a drought disaster area, it has also been further devastated by catastrophic veld fires that have compounded the havoc in the region with 22 fires reported in the last two months. It is estimated that approximately 40 000 hectares have been burned down, affecting approximately 60 farmers in this district alone.

Chris Hani and other regions in the province have also experienced drought and veld fires; these areas must also be visited as soon as possible to assess the conditions.

During normal conditions, farmers in neighbouring areas would assist with grazing and feed, but due to the current extreme drought conditions there are no surplus grazing or fodder resources and it is almost impossible to keep suffering animals alive.

Government’s delay in dealing with these disasters is a shameful reflection of carelessness by its leadership; this reinforces the fact that President Zuma believes that the ANC comes first.

My colleague, Annette Steyn DA MP, will be petitioning the National Minister of Agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana, to draw immediate attention to this situation.

I am also going to petition MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, to request that his provincial officials do what’s necessary to provide immediate and urgent support to the affected farmers, their staff and communities. — Athol Trollip MPL, Shadow MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform