Speech Notes: Vote 8 – DRDAR Annual & Half Year Financial Oversight Reports

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

Speaker, in November last year, we had a debate in the House on Climate Change.

I revealed then that as far back as 2011, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government had revealed its Climate Change Response Strategy at COP17. This 350 page document dealt with both the key climate change risks as well as the priority response options to climate change.

This strategy stated that:

“Climate change projections indicate that the Eastern Cape is expected to experience higher temperature increases towards the north-west interior of the Province. Increasing temperatures are likely to result in increases in evaporation rates and the possibility of drought”.

Speaker, that document was written a decade ago! Since then, all this document has done was gather dust. Even worse, since our last discussion, there has been no further progress made by the Province in dealing with the effects of the drought and, by implication, the effects of climate change.

A decade ago, this government knew that there was a likelihood that climate change could possibly severely affect the north-west regions of this Province, leading to severe and prolonged drought conditions. The Provincial Government chose to do nothing to assist our people.

Speaker, for the past six years vast areas within the Sarah Baartman District Municipality, but more specifically communities in Graaff-Reinet, Aberdeen, Willowmore and Jansenville have been grappling with one of the most severe droughts on record. The Provincial Government chose to do nothing to assist our people.

Hundreds of farmers in this region, both emerging and commercial, have been decimated by the effects of this prolonged drought. Many of our rural towns ran out of water and if it was not for private well-doers such as Gift of the Givers, residents in towns such as Graaff-Reinet, Bedford and Adelaide would have literally died of thirst. The provincial government chose to do nothing to assist our people.

In Nelson Mandela Bay the Municipality, under the previous government, forfeited R183 Million in Drought Mitigation grant funding, which will now seriously compromise the ability of this Municipality to complete its Drought Mitigation projects. Again, this provincial government chose to do nothing to assist our people.

This morning in the Herald, you will read on the front page how farmers in the Gamtoos Valley, and in certain districts within Sarah Baartman, is struggling to survive. I have said it before, and I will say it again: This government and more specifically, this Department, is not responsive towards the needs of the agricultural industry in the Province.

The Hon Premier has repeatedly indicated his support for agriculture in the Province. He always tells us how agriculture is the low hanging fruit when it comes to creating jobs in the Eastern Cape.

Well, Speaker, I will tell the Hon Premier that if you are a farmer in the Eastern Cape, you are on your own. This government has repeatedly shown that they do not care for our farmers’ plight and is anything but responsive towards the needs of our farmers. And that’s a fact. Don’t stick your head in the sand, go and ask any farmer in this Province and they will tell you that this government is nowhere in providing real support to farmers, whether you are an emerging or commercial farmer.

Speaker, DRDAR has such great potential! What innovation has this Department shown here over the last number of years? Whilst the Western Cape government roles out innovative projects with regards to water and energy-saving technologies and is doing Novel Technologies research on transistors to lasers and spray drones, we can’t even drill bore holes for livestock dying in Sarah Baartman!

We preside over possibly the most number of failed projects of any department in this provincial government. Mbizaza and Mqanduli Red Hubs are bleeding money. We have to buy maize in from other areas because farmers here have very little support to assist them in increasing their crop yield. Failed.

Magwa and Majola tea plantations. Does anyone in the House know what we are doing there? Because the Department certainly doesn’t know where they are going with this project. This project isn’t bleeding money, it is haemorrhaging money to such an extent, I don’t know if we are going to be able to resuscitate it. Future plans include anything from planting Macadamia to the cultivations of biofuel crops! Biofuel Speaker, when Brent Crude is selling for 55 USD a barrel! The Department should wake up and smell the tea. Failed.

Let’s look at Mantusini Dairy, where DRDAR has invested some R8,5 million of the total R43 million together with the national Department. We should market the milk produced there as the most expensive milk in the world, because the investment of R43 Million produced only 315 litres of milk a day! Who protected the financial interest of the provincial government in this project? The answer Speaker: No-one. Failed

Failed project after failed project. The only projects which are ostensibly successful are the projects which the Department handed over to the communities and which they are managing themselves. A case in point would be the couple of successful sheering sheds that were built!
It would almost seem as if a hands-off approach to projects initiated by the Department is a better approach-the further away the Department is from these projects, the less damage they can do and the less money they can waste!

Seriously Speaker, we have huge problems in this Department. Project management for both DRDAR and the ECRDA is found wanting time after time. We cannot continue like this.

DRDAR must become far more responsive towards the needs of our farmers in the Province. Emerging farmers requires support, education and skills to turn them into commercial farmers. We don’t want small scale farmers to remain small scale farmers their entire life! This is not the commitment which this government has made in growing the agriculture industry in the Province!

The Democratic Alliance supports the reports before and would sensitize you that, notwithstanding the underspending by the Department, no funds have been made available for farmers plagued by the ongoing drought in the current financial year.

It is a disgrace.

I thank you.