Mpumalanga veterinary services under threat as department shuts doors

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga’s response to dread animal diseases such as rabies and foot-and-mouth may severely diminished if the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration (DARDLA) carries out its decision to shut down 42 of its satellite offices across Mpumalanga.

In a memorandum from the departmental CFO Mr CT Dlamini on 13 August, all district managers were instructed to start shutting down 42 departmental offices and leave only one service centre per municipality and one per district operational by 1 September. The order follows a management committee resolution on 31 July.

Click here to view the departmental correspondence.

While the reasons for the shutdown are unknown, the DA is particularly concerned over the impact the closure of veterinary services offices will have on Mpumalanga’s animal health. It appears that no alternatives were provided for the veterinary clinics that are being closed, nor are cold rooms being provided at the remaining offices to store critical vaccines.

Should this decision be carried out, it will cause an immediate collapse of veterinary services across Mpumalanga, with devastating consequences on the livelihood of the rural poor, as well as emerging and subsistence farmers – people who are most dependent on state assistance to preserve their livestock’s health.

A sudden outbreak of disease will deliver a huge blow to the poorest of Mpumalanga’s poor, but also damage much of the provincial government’s Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, a programme specifically created to improve the lives subsistence farmers.

While the department may have valid reasons to shut down many of its offices, the DA believes that it needs to be done in a manner that holds no threat to the livelihood of the poor, and that the move be put on hold until certainty is given over the future of veterinary clinics.

To this end, the DA wrote to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee for agriculture, Ms RC Mahlobogoane, requesting that the committee summons department head Ms Nelisiwe Sithole to appear before the committee to account for the reasoning behind the decision.

Mpumalanga’s people need to be reassured that the province’s veterinary services are not in any way compromised.