Speech Notes: Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform Annual Report and Financial Oversight Debate

Honourable Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Honourable premier, honourable MEC’s, Members of the Legislature, senior officials and the gallery. I greet you all today.

Honourable speaker it is of public knowledge that poverty in this province is widespread. This is evident in the large number people leaving this province in search of a better life and job opportunities because of the high rate of unemployment in this province. In light of the above mentioned circumstances, the importance of this department and its role in fighting poverty cannot be overstated.

This department’s audit outcome has regressed to a qualified audit opinion and an under expenditure of R11,625m. An opportunity to deliver R11,625m worth of services has been missed. An opportunity to strengthen clean governance have been missed. As a result lesser than the desired number of lives has been changed. Unfortunately, this under expenditure seems to be a continuing trend when I look at the mid-year financials for 2018/19.

The emerging farmers in this province are hard hit by the lack of rain and sufficient support from the department. It is therefore disappointing that the farmer support and development programme has under-spent on its budget by R5,588m. If we are to encourage our people to be involved in agriculture this programme needs to up its game. It is impossible to talk about agriculture without discussing the impact of the drought.

Today we remember the passing of tata Nelson Mandela five years ago. As his soul continues to rest in peace, may we also continue to draw from what he stood for, one South Africa for all, premised on Freedom, Fairness, Opportunity and Diversity.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is concerned with the lack of coordination between the spheres of government when it comes to projects that are brought to the communities. This results in projects not achieving the desired outcome. Throwing money is not a solution when projects are not owned by communities is a recipe for disaster. This is evident in the vandalism of the Idutywa Agri-park.

Millions were spent on that that facility but today it is vandalised. I would love to know how the department plans to remedy this situation.

The role of the technology and research development programme needs to be strengthened in order to bring new innovative solutions through research and ensure that projects are done in conducive areas and farmers are advised adequately. Research needs to impact the lives of the people. Poor information dissemination between researchers and extension officers, farmers and other stakeholders, could result in research information not reaching the end-user. This makes research efforts null and void and extension officers will be using out-dated information.

The DA is committed to strengthening innovation, where we govern, we give space to innovative minds to bring solutions.

In order to ensure that the agricultural sector is transformed, land reform projects need to be nurtured. The department must identify several ways to do this over the next few years, with initiatives including business development support, short training courses with the support of commodity organisations.

These organisations not only help by mentoring smallholder farmers, but can play an important role in ensuring market access. It is very sad to see beneficiaries of land reform struggling to keep their farm productive due to lack of support. The DA calls on the MEC to prioritise this.

The DA supports this report.