R10 mil Farm Living Standards Inquiry must have clear terms and budget

By James Masango, DA Mpumalanga Leader:

The DA in Mpumalanga cautiously welcomes the announcement of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the socio-economic conditions of farm-dwellers in the province, but the massive R10 million allocated budget must be defined, and transparent and the terms of the enquiry must be made clear.

The DA will write to Premier David Mabuza calling on him to disclose the terms of reference of the Commission, its powers and a breakdown of its budget to ensure that the money will not be spent on luxuries. This massive amount of money cannot and must not be used on unnecessary expenditure like gourmet catering, luxury travel and additional consulting fees.

The living conditions of farm-dwellers must be improved, and data on their living standards is an essential starting point. Therefore the move by Premier Mabuza is positive, but is puzzling because the province already has reliable data on the plight of farmers and farm dwellers – research in this regard has been done before.

If the work of this Commission is to add to the data already collected, and will lead to improved living standards, it can be welcomed. But the terms of the commission are not yet clear, and therefore it is too early to know if Premier Mabuza has established a talk-shop, or a commission with real powers of investigation. Premier Mabuza must therefore table the terms of this commission, along with all of its powers.

Most farms in Mpumalanga handed over to previously disadvantaged communities are struggling on their own because government has abandoned them to their own devices – these farms are no-longer producing the necessary resources and this has led to many people losing their jobs but still living on farm lands in abject poverty.

Agricultural failures in South Africa can be placed at the door of the National Department of Agriculture.

Mpumalanga should take a leaf out of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s book, which is the best run department of agriculture in South Africa.

The Western Cape is the only province with a farm worker development program in South Africa – Mpumalanga would do well to implement a similar program rather than spending more money on inquiries into why agriculture continues to stall.