Patricia O’ Neill-Coutts, MPL
DA Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture, Rural Development & Land Reform
The Democratic Alliance considers it totally unacceptable that a severe case of analysis paralysis within the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture is aggravating the effects of the ongoing drought in certain areas of the Northern Cape.
In April this year, during their budget presentation to the legislature’s portfolio committee, the department indicated that certain parts of the John Taole Gaetsewe and Siyanda districts were under threat of droughts. At the same time, the department indicated that they had not budgeted for the drought scheme and that only after an analysis of the drought conditions, would they declare the affected land as disaster areas and request assistance from national. It is now a full three months later and the drought has not ceased but still the provincial department of agriculture is just sitting on the sidelines, watching cattle die.
The DA wants MEC Norman Shushu to explain to the legislature why it is that his department has money to fund a youth conference, yet doesn’t have money to buy feed for starving cattle. Where do the priorities of the department of agriculture lie, with agriculture or with youth development? We can’t help but think that, with less than a year to go until the elections, Shushu has embarked on the campaign trail at the expense of farming.
The DA also wants to know what role the department’s extension officers have played in mitigating the effects of the drought. It would seem that overgrazing has further aggravated the drought conditions. Why is this the case? What role have the extension officers been playing if not educating, advising and supporting emerging farmers on best farming practices – more so in times like this?
The DA will write to Premier Sylvia Lucas, requesting her to intervene and lobby national government for additional funding for drought relief. At least we know that the Premier, who previously served as MEC of Environment and Nature Conservation, is passionate about the environment and would be devastated to see cattle dying due to skewed priorities and inadequate management.