Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
Mpumalanga’s agriculture MEC Violet Siwela exposed her own hypocrisy when she openly endorsed sugar produced and imported from Brazil, despite one of the Big Four sugar producers located less than 80km away from her Nelspruit Office.
As part of the agricultural department’s annual policy and budget speech, an unknown number of gift bags comprising departmental information and locally produced agricultural produce are dished out to MPLs, journalists and several hundred guests. This year was no different, with the exception that 1kg packs of imported Brazilian sugar were included, and not Selati brand sugar from Mpumalanga’s own Tsb Sugar in Malalane.
It is an absolute disgrace that the MEC, on her maiden budget speech, would turn her back on local agricultural producers by purchasing several dozen packs of imported sugar from a high end retailer at R29-95 each, when the identical Selati brand costs only R11-49 each. In fact, the DA believes that had the MEC or anyone from her office bothered to contact Tsb, the company would probably have given it to them for free.
While the DA believes that the gifts are an unnecessary waste of public funds in the first place, MEC Siwela’s snub of South Africa’s fourth largest sugar producer should not go unnoticed. Not only should she publicly apologise to Tsb Sugar and their employees, but her lack of judgement raises serious concerns about her fitness to hold such high office.
The pressure on Mpumalanga’s agricultural sector increases day by day, as mining operations, labour costs and increasing input costs put tremendous pressure on producers to keep farming a viable and profitable exercise. The agriculture department needs to be led by a person who is wholly committed to improving agricultural output and sustainability in Mpumalanga, and MEC Siwela’s actions prove the contrary.