Patricia O’ Neill-Coutts, MPL
DA Northern Cape: Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture
The Democratic Alliance is concerned that the department’s poor track record of dealing with disasters will impact negatively on the drought ravaged areas of the province. In turn, the DA will be submitting parliamentary questions to the Northern Cape MEC of Agriculture, Norman Shushu, to ascertain how much money the department intends on setting aside for drought relief in the province and also by when this money will be paid out.
This comes amidst reports that “parts of the Northern Cape, including the areas surrounding Kimberley in the direction of Warrenton, the areas west of Boesmanland and east of Pofadder, as well as Kuruman and Vanzylsrus, are experiencing severe drought conditions”, coupled with the fact that the department failed to table a dedicated budgetary allocation towards the drought scheme for the current financial year.
The provincial agriculture department is known for dragging its feet when it comes to managing agricultural disasters. Farmers affected by raging veld fires late last year, are still waiting for the Koopmansfontein to be declared a disaster area. Another example is the department’s unacceptably slow roll out the flood relief scheme, which saw the department spend only R86 million of the R353 million allocation dedicated for flood relief in the past financial year. As a result of this massive underspending, flood relief assistance was significantly cut by 26% for the 2013/2014 financial year. And as a result, affected farmers are struggling to survive these disasters.
The above serves to highlight the department’s disastrous management of disasters – a problem that the DA has been raising for years. The DA is of the view that this is largely due to the fact that the department has been unjustifiably slow to comply with relevant legislation and to implement appropriate plans. This is seen in the fact that the department has still not finalized its Disaster Risk Contingency Plan.
Droughts, floods and fire are historically characteristic of the Northern Cape landscape. Plans to mitigate natural disasters should have been tabled long ago and they must now be implemented urgently. Only then can we expect to see an improvement in the department’s intolerably slow post-disaster responses.