Agriculture chooses “pretty paper” over starving cattle

Patricia O’Neill-Coutts

DA Provincial Spokesperson on Agriculture

The Democratic Alliance is outraged at  the agriculture department for prioritizing the printing of its annual reports over providing assistance to starving livestock in drought ridden areas of the province.

It emerged during today’s annual report presentation at the legislature that the department has in fact spent approximately R500 000 on the printing of about 500 annual reports. The reports were fancily printed, with glossy hard covers, and effectively cost close on R1000 per report.

At the same time, the department’s HOD today confirmed that approximately R90 million per month is needed for drought relief for at least the next four months, or perhaps even longer depending on when sufficient rainfall will come.

Clearly this department has lost the plot. They see fit to squander limited funds on the printing of a document, which could simply have been photocopied on departmental machines, while neglecting their core duty of securing a vibrant agricultural sector. Had they acted wisely, they could instead have procured approximately 250 tons of lucerne for the cost of the book.

This behaviour is unacceptable.

Serious drought conditions in the province were already highlighted in April this year. But now, six months later, the drought has not ceased while the provincial department of agriculture is still in the process of trying to source funds to mitigate the effects of the drought.

Considering the department’s skewed priorities, the DA is concerned that next year’s looming elections may also have something to do with an apparent unwillingness on the part of government to set aside funding towards the drought assistance. Given the department’s latest splurge, we would not put it past this department to use the millions needed to buy feed for starving cattle, to instead buy vote-winning food parcels for the ANC.