Western Cape Government to assess impact of fires on agriculture sector

By Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities:

The Western Cape Government hopes on Monday (25 January 2016) to start an impact assessment of the recent fires on the agriculture sector.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, said teams from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture aimed to visit affected farms on Monday.

“If the fire is under control and the smoke has subsided, the officials will be able to access the farms to conduct surveys. This will give us an idea of the damage to agriculture land and infrastructure.”

Minister Winde yesterday visited the Joint Operations Centre, based at Delvera off the R44, where he received a comprehensive briefing on the fires.

“The fires, and the drought, are putting pressure on our agriculture sector, particularly on the wine-producing regions. It is taking focus and manpower away from harvesting.

“This is going to have a major cost to our economy. The agriculture sector, with its backward link to agri-procesing, is one of our key growth sectors.”

Minister Winde yesterday also appealed to residents to assist authorities with their investigation into alleged arson attacks.

It is alleged that arson has caused some of the recent fires.

Minister Winde further commended the firefighters for their effort in bringing the blazes under control.

“Our firefighters are true heroes and we salute these brave men and women. I’d also like to thank the public for their support. It was encouraging to see several companies and residents arriving at Delvera with donations for the firefighting teams.”

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Minister Alan Winde to conduct site visit to fire-damaged wine farms

Media Advisory:

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, will today (21 January 2016) conduct site visits to some of the province’s agricultural areas which have been hardest hit by the recent and ongoing fires.

Ahead of this site visit, Minister Winde will stop at the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) where fire-fighting efforts are being coordinated. The JOC is stationed at Delvera.

DETAILS:

DATE: 21 January 2016

TIME: 1:30pm

VENUE: Delvera, off the R44

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International travellers rate Western Cape hotels as world’s best

By Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities:

Millions of international travellers have selected the Western Cape’s hotels as among the best in the world.

Accommodation establishments across the province have won Tripadvisor’s Travellers Choice Awards.

The list is based on ratings by millions of real travellers. It recognizes the best hotels in over 90 countries.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, has congratulated the four establishments in our region which made the list.

Please see winners below:

Blackheath Lodge in Three Anchor Bay was named as one of the Top 25 Hotels for Service. One guest said: “It is the perfect location to explore Cape Town and the surrounding vineyards. The perfect place to enjoy the sun, read, relax, nap or whatever it takes to rejuvenate, all while being pampered.”

2inn1 Kensington in Gardens was selected as one of the world’s Top 25 Small Hotels, with one guest describing it as a “stylish hotel”, with “excellent service”.

Villa Afrikana Guest Suites is also one of the Top 25 Small Hotels. One tourist said the Knysna property offered the “best stay in South Africa”.

The Garden House in Franschhoek was recognised as one of the Top 25 B&B and Inns. Visitors praised the establishment’s hospitality.

Minister Winde said the awards signalled another great year for the Western Cape’s tourism sector.

“We’re still in the middle of our peak tourism season and early indications suggest that several attractions are experiencing an increase in visitor numbers. I commend these hotels for garnering excellent publicity for themselves and for our destination as a whole. The world-class service we offer our visitors is definitely a key factor in repeat visits.”

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Letter to the Editor – Well done iSimangaliso!

By Ann McDonnell, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson for Economic Development, Tourism, Conservation and Environmental Affairs:

The tragedy of the severe drought in South Africa has brought home to all of us the vital importance of looking after our scarce resources.

This has been amplified by the many media articles which have laid bare the devastating loss of livestock and crops along with queues of people waiting for water tankers.

Yesterday’s Mercury article – by award-winning environmental journalist Tony Carnie – on the sad state of Lake St Lucia is one such example.

So it was very good to also read that the management of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, one KZN’s precious Heritage sites, has managed to raise funds to reverse the negative effects of the practices of the past.

This proactive approach must be applauded and held up as an example of true will in the face of adversity.

Well done iSimangaliso!

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National Govt red tape worsens impact of drought

By Beverley Schäfer, MPP, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture:

Alarming reports have emerged, from AGRI Western Cape and the Chamber of Mines, that the National Department of Water Affairs is preventing farmers from obtaining integrated water-use licenses despite the fact that we are facing a potential food crisis in light of the current drought. We cannot allow red tape to make matters worse for farmers and consumers in the long run.

As the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, I will write to Minister of Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture in the Western Cape, Alan Winde. I will request that he involves the Western Cape’s Red Tape Reduction Unit to assist farmers to obtain the necessary water licences needed.

A reported backlog of more than 1500 license applications submitted to the national department has yet to be finalised by the end of 2015. These applications come at a great cost to farmers, who are already struggling under financial strain. We now see a record number of farms for sale in water-stressed provinces, with 3485 farms for sale in the Western Cape alone. The drought comes at a cost to our economy and our trade balance. The reduction in maize production alone may cost us an estimated R2.4 billion. We have to do our utmost to ease the situation. National government should be helping farmers, instead of making their lives more difficult.

The Western Cape Government (WCG) has established the highly effective Red Tape Reduction unit with the Department of Economic Development, which offers assistance in dealing with cumbersome process. This unit can be of excellent assistance to farmers in obtaining integrated water-use licenses. I will also ask Minister Winde to look into ways in which the WCG can help reduce the immense cost linked to license applications, so as to assist small-scale farmers in applying for licenses.

The drought is already causing an economic crisis, which is hurting farmers and consumers, especially the poor. Now is the time for government to step up to the plate and assist farmers, rather than standing in their way.

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Drought takes multi-billion rand toll on economy; emergency funding top priority

By Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities:

The Western Cape Government will this week table a report on the impact of the drought in our province at a meeting of the country’s agriculture Ministers.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, will table the report at the MINMEC meeting which takes place in Gauteng on Friday (22 January 2016). This meeting includes the National Minister and all the provincial MECs.

The drought may cost the country more than R2 billion in trade losses.

Minister Winde said his Economic Planning Unit had completed an early analysis of the impact of the drought.

“It has been estimated that we will need to import 750 000 tons of maize because of the decline in production. At the current maize price, this would result in a trade loss of R2.4 billion.”

Minister Winde said the Unit’s analysis also estimated that national agricultural production had declined by more than 42%.

“This drop in production resulted in a 1.1% decrease in the country’s Gross Domestic Production.”

Minister Winde added that consumers would start feeling the effects of the drought as food prices increased.

“The affected towns and the surrounding areas are under huge pressure. We will be tabling a comprehensive report on Friday at the MINMEC.”

“Dealing with the impact of the drought is my foremost priority. That is why in December I approved an emergency support package for emerging farmers in our hardest hit areas. A full assessment was completed and these beneficiaries have been identified. And that is why, in line with the law, we have appealed to the National Government for drought relief.”

Colin Deiner, head of the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre (WCDMC), said: “The WCDMC is continuously monitoring the drought situation in the province and is holding regular integrated meetings with all relevant stakeholders including the national disaster management centre and relevant national departments. The main areas of concern remain the three municipal areas of Witzenberg, Prins Albert and Oudtshoorn. The West Coast and Central Karoo Districts also remain of some concern at present.”

Minister Winde added that the Western Cape Government would continue to encourage smart agricultural practices to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

“We have already introduced conservation agriculture. This approach is being driven by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the Agriculture Research Council. It involves minimum soil disturbance, maximum soil cover and crop rotation.  Our wheat farmers have already seen increased production and profit, and reduced soil erosion. Going forward we will continue to raise awareness of this approach.”

Minister Winde said the Western Cape Government had also partnered with the University of Cape Town and agricultural sector to develop a comprehensive climate change response plan.

This initiative, the SmartAgri project, is being driven jointly by the Provincial Departments of Agriculture, and Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

Further to the above information the National Minister, Senzeni Zokwana, indicated that should the current conditions persist, maize imports may reach five to six million tons, placing a huge burden on our logistics and transport systems.

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17% electricity tariff hike set to destroy NMB jobs

By Athol Trollip, DA Mayoral Candidate: Nelson Mandela Bay:

With forecasted GDP growth of just 0.3% for 2016’s first quarter, it is absolute insanity for Eskom to be considering a 17% tariff hike.

Nelson Mandela Bay is in the grips of an unemployment crisis with almost 50% of our youth without jobs. Increasing tariffs will drive up industry overheads, increasing consumer prices and obliterating much needed employment for thousands of residents.

The DA is committed to building and protecting a society of entrepreneurs, backed up by an effective education system, a fair budget, infrastructure maintenance and a red tape free bureaucracy.

With collapsing municipal infrastructure and a failure by the NMB municipality to expand the electricity network, residents are about to suffer yet another blow at the hands of these proposed tariff hikes.

The insider-outsider economy is being worsened by a steadily growing municipal infrastructure backlog that currently sits at approximately R4 billion. When the ANC in NMB cut the maintenance infrastructure budget by R123 million last year, it turned away from job creation and the provision of quality services to this Metro’s most vulnerable residents.

Poor management of Eskom, under the watch of the ANC, has forced the utility into a cash emergency, the effects of which are being felt by everyday South Africans.

It is this local government’s responsibility to compensate for shocking national government decisions by rejecting these tariff hikes and rolling out jobs programmes.

Change is coming to NMB, and with it a new era of freedom, fairness and opportunity.

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DA plan to help businesses create jobs in Bertrams

By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Joburg East Constituency Head:

At a media event today in Frere Road in Bertrams, DA Joburg East Constituency Head Jack Bloom and DA Councillor Victor Penning proposed a plan to assist local businesses in Bertrams to create more jobs.

Bertrams is an old suburb in east Johannesburg near the inner city.

It is a mixed residential and business area, but is in need of law enforcement and upgrading which will assist in creating new jobs (the same applies to neighbouring Lorentzville and Judith’s Paarl).

Many businesses currently provide a variety of jobs in the area, and new owners are renovating properties.

It is an accessible area with much potential. Business clients are put off, however, by the crime and grime.

The following five measures will uplift the suburb and make it a better environment for businesses to create jobs:

  1. Enforce city by-laws to prevent over-crowding, illegal dumping and general deterioration in the area e.g. about 100 people live in three houses in Frere Road which are crammed with backyard shacks.
  2. Provide decent city services to ensure that the area is clean and maintained.
  3. Fix up the persistent billing problems which cause problems for businesses in the area e.g. frequent threats to cut electricity for alleged non-payment.
  4. Effective action by the local police to bring down the high crime level. The Nandos Head Office has 267 employees, and has reported about 10 serious crime incidents since mid-November last year, including assaults, thefts and attacks on cars. The current station commander at Jeppe police station needs to be replaced as he is perpetually absent and ineffectual.
  5. Consultation with a Bertrams Business Forum (to be formed shortly with the assistance of Ward Councillor Carlos da Rocha) in resolving local problems and making the area more business friendly by cutting red tape.

Business wishing to join a Business Forum, which will include Lorentzville and Judith’s Paarl, should contact local businesswoman Julia Ackermann at (083) 4513535 or kunstler@global.co.za

The DA’s plan to help businesses create jobs in Bertrams can be replicated in similar areas throughout Johannesburg, which will happen if the DA wins the local government elections this year.

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DA plans to help businesses create jobs in Bertrams

Bertrams is an old suburb in east Johannesburg near the inner city.

It is a mixed residential and business area, but is in need of law enforcement and upgrading which will assist in creating new jobs.

DA Constituency Head, Jack Bloom MPL and Ward Councillor Carlos da Rocha invite the media to meet business owners who will explain how the incompetence of the Johannesburg City Council prevents them from creating more jobs that will assist everyone in the area.

The DA will also present a plan to increase Bertrams’ job-creating potential should the DA win Johannesburg in the local elections that are due to be held this year.

Date: Thursday, 14 January

Time: 11:00

Venue: Katherine House, 33 Frere Road Bertrams (between Queens and Viljoen streets)

There will be opportunities for interviews and photographs. Members of the media are welcome to attend.

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No excuse for delays in MECs’ appointment

By Andrew Louw, MPL, DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape:

The Democratic Alliance calls on the premier of the Northern Cape to take the provincial administration seriously. There is no excuse for the delays in the appointment of a permanent Member of the Executive Council for Education and for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism. Both of these portfolios are pivotal in driving provincial growth and require a permanent appointee.

Why does it take the ANC-led administration so long to make permanent appointments and when will it begin to prioritise provincial interests over internal party matters? The province and its people matter more than a political party. When former premier Hazel Jenkins suffered a stroke, it took more than a year to appoint a new premier.

We are not casting aspersions on the work being done by either of the acting MECs. But it is inhumane to expect that one person can do justice to both the crucial portfolios of Health and Finance, Economic Development and Tourism. We know that Mac Jack has made all the right noises about service delivery, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day for him to do everything that these demanding portfolios require.

Likewise, Education requires full-time attention which should not be split with the equally important portfolio of Transport, Safety and Liaison. It was recently revealed that the provincial pass rate for grade 12 learners has decreased by 7%, including a decrease in bachelors’ passes of 3.6%, a decrease of 6.4% in the Mathematics pass rate and a decrease of 6.1% in Physical Sciences. While the quality of education offered to learners declines, violent crimes such as assault and robbery have shown an increase in 2015. We need two different MECs who can devote their attention full-time to delivering quality education on the one hand and safe communities on the other.

Not only is the premier neglecting her duty to appoint competent members of her executive, but she is failing to appoint permanent heads of departments. There has also been a number of vacancies among heads of department in the province, including a vacancy in the Provincial Treasury since October 2014 and in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism since November 2014.

One cannot run a spaza shop like this, let alone a province.

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