A billion rand needed for drought relief, and still no declaration

Issued by Retief Odendaal, MPL
Shadow MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform

The Eastern Cape needs at least R1 billion in funding in the next financial year alone, if it is to provide sufficient support to municipalities and provide drought relief for farmers.

Despite this, there is still no sign of the drought declaration from Premier Oscar Mabuyane, even though there were two gazettes published this week for the Eastern Cape.

Speaking at Taking Legislature to the People in Komani this week, Premier Mabuyane said that he had declared the province a disaster area.

However the DA wants to point out that the declaration must be done as per the requirements set out in section 35 of the Disaster Management Act of 2002 (Act No.57 of 2002). This declaration must be gazetted, and all government entities be informed.

While the premier dithers and delays, livestock are dying and municipalities are running out of water. This is a matter of grave urgency.

There is no doubt that the Eastern Cape is currently experiencing one of the most disastrous and debilitating droughts in its history with over four years of way-below-average rainfall.

This period has been characterized as a once-in-a-hundred-year drought and has placed many farmers in financial ruin.

The Democratic Alliance has already called for a special sitting of the portfolio committee on Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, to review the Department’s budget and reallocate funding for drought aid. A notice of motion was also tabled by the DA this week, during Taking Legislature to the People, calling for the budgetary review.

In excess of R50 million in non-core expenditure has been identified in the Department’s budget by the DA, which could immediately be redirected to assist farmers in need.

While R50 million is a drop in the ocean in the face of the drought crisis our province is experiencing, it is substantially better than the paltry R3.2 million that has been made available by the Department for drought relief to date.

In the DA-led Western Cape, provincial funding of R147 million has been made available to assist farmers in their province to deal with the drought.

The continued inaction and lack of intervention by the provincial government to declare a provincial disaster is causing irreconcilable harm to not only farmers but also to our provincial economy.