Mpumalanga’s economy bears the brunt of dodgy land claims

By Bosman Grobler MPL, Spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs:

The DA in Mpumalanga welcomes the court order instructing Rural Development and Land Reform Minister, Gugile Nkwinti, to take back land that was given to a controversial trust and to review the claim.

The validity of the Ndwandwa Community Trust Claim which involved 105 farms worth R51 million in the Badplaas area has been questioned since it was instituted more than 10 years ago. This claim saw farms being transferred to the Trust amid allegations of fake beneficiaries and hugely inflated land prices.

During the time that this land claim was filed, current Mpumalanga Premier, David Mabuza, was the MEC for Agriculture in the province. Although his office has denied his involvement in this land claim, his name continued to come up.

As MEC, Mabuza, should have been able to see the discrepancies with the valuation of the land and prevent the government from being duped into purchasing overpriced land.

It is concerning that over the past few years almost every dodgy land deal that has surfaced in the province has made reference to Premier Mabuza’s involvement.

Corruption within the agriculture and land administration sector has marred the legitimate plight of South Africans to receive their rightful compensation after they were displaced by the apartheid government.

Dodgy land deals are detrimental to the economy of the province and the country because all too often;

  • Land that was productive is left fallow and no longer productive;
  • Agricultural infrastructure gets stripped and sold for its scrap value;
  • Thousands of people who are employed in tourism or agriculture lose their jobs;
  • Opportunities to create employment vanish as planned projects fail.

This once again shows that the current government has little regard for the thousands of skilled people sitting without employment.

By rooting out the seeds of corruption and making meaningful investments in sectors that are known to provide employment for the majority of rural dwellers, the DA can alleviate poverty and create much needed jobs.

The DA calls for the release of the report on the forensic investigation into this land deal that was instituted by former Land Affairs Minister, Thoko Didiza. We believe that this report holds the key to exposing those involved in the scam and ensuring that they take accountability for their actions.

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!

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.

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.

Lack of helicopter maintenance a threat during fire season

By Rodney Lentit MPP, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament:

Alarming reports have recently surfaced that the helicopter crash that killed fire-fighting pilot, Hendrik ’Bees’ Marais, may have been due to poor maintenance.

I will write to Johan Heine, the CEO of Kishugu Aviation, which runs the Working on Fire programme, to determine why there was a lack of maintenance. Working on Fire was responsible for maintenance of helicopters during the time of the crash.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has concluded their investigation regarding the fatal crash involving the well-respected pilot, Bees Marais. The CAA found that helicopters were not being maintained regularly, despite regular use.

The Western Cape is currently experiencing its dry season, gale force winds are also to be expected this time of year. As we have seen in the last few weeks, this is a dangerous combination as far as fires go.

Combating fires by helicopter is a crucial component in securing the safety of the people of this province, particularly those in mountainous areas like the Overberg region. It is imperative that the helicopters that are used to fight fires are maintained so that the safety of the extraordinarily brave a skilled pilots, is not compromised.

Letter to the Editor: DA welcome continuity in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife leadership

By Ann McDonnell, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on EDTEA:

THE DA is delighted by the news that Dr David Mabundla has signed a contract for a further three years as head of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

We welcome the fact that provincial Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, has heeded our call to retain Dr Mabundla.

His hand on the tiller has had a stabilising effect on this critical entity and we wish him well as he enters this next phase.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is doing some amazing work – much of it is highly scientific in nature and therefore not widely known.  The work is invaluable during this time of massive climate change.

This organisation has the potential to be a global leader in the fight to safeguard our natural heritage.  All it needs is the right leadership.

The DA wishes Dr Mabundla well as he takes on this important challenge.

Western Cape cabinet to request disaster classification

By Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell and Alan Winde Minister of Economic Opportunities:

The Western Cape Provincial cabinet will request its National counterparts to make a provincial disaster classification for the Western Cape.

Anton Bredell, the minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape, says the cabinet decision was taken on Wednesday.

“The decision follows input from the provincial disaster management authority with regards to the provincial water situation. Our assessments of the provincial water situation found more than one region or district municipality in the province is experiencing very dry and water-stressed conditions. This led to the request to the provincial cabinet for a disaster classification.

“Part of the request to the National counterparts will be for funding to be made available for disaster relief in the province. Additionally, the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre remains hard at work updating its preparedness plans in the event of an escalation with regards to water challenges.”

Minister Bredell says the National Disaster Management Centre is the only entity mandated to classify disasters.

“Once so classified by NDMC, the affected municipal councils and Provincial Cabinet will then declare a state of disaster in line with the classification.

According to Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, should the National Government approve the Provincial Cabinet’s request, farmers will be asked to lodge applications for assistance.

“Any assistance provided will be based on strict criteria.”

Minister Winde added that the situation highlighted the importance of smart farming practices and in putting contingency funds aside in the good years.

“In the Western Cape, some farmers have already introduced conservation agriculture. As a result of this intervention, they’ve seen increased production and profit, reduced soil erosion and improved water quality and soil health. This approach, which is being spearheaded by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Council, involves minimum soil disturbance, maximum soil cover and crop rotation. An impact study we conducted in partnership with the ARC found the initiative resulted in a R341 million saving.

“Farmers in the dry areas who have not adopted conservation agriculture are reporting a possible 50% decline in yield. Our research farm in the same area, Langgewens, which has adopted conservation agriculture practices, is expecting a 25% decline in yield. The lower yield decline at the research farm shows the positive impact of conservation agriculture and how it is helping to mitigate some weather-related risks. I was encouraged to see that more farmers have recognised the value of conservation agriculture and have migrated to more responsible farming practices.”

A proper land audit needs to be done in Mpumalanga

By Bosman Grobler MPL, DA Spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs:

The following debate was delivered today by DA Spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, Bosman Grobler MPL, during a sitting on questions for oral reply to the MEC’s at Ehlanzeni District Council Chambers.

Hon Speaker, it was musician Ray Davies who said, “Money and corruption are ruining the land, crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, and we’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep”. Ray wrote these lyrics in 1973, it they still hold truth to this day.

Before we can have an honest debate on land restitution, we need to have a proper land audit done in this province. We need to know what land is owned by the state and what land is owned by private entities and individuals. Further to that, we need to know what the state is doing with residential property in its ownership, we also need to know which properties owned by the private sector are for sale.

Hon Speaker, the issue of land restitution is a very important one. I’ll admit that the ruling party is taking the matter seriously, the problem is with their approach to the matter. One day the ruling party cites “willing buyer, willing seller” as their principle, and the next day it’s “hand over 50% of your land.” This can’t be the case, the ruling party needs to develop a firm policy stance on the matter, and fully implement it, without wavering and resorting to populist rhetoric when the going gets tough.

Further to that, the ANC needs to support CPA’s after the restitution has occurred. The DA maintains its view that this government is setting up our people for failure. How can it be that over 90% of Land restitution programs are failing in this province? How can government allow this to happen? To once again quote Ray’s words, “We are sick and tired of being promised this and that. We work all day, we sweat and slave to keep the wealthy fat. They fill our heads with promises and bamboozle us with facts, then they put on false sincerity then they laugh behind our backs.” Fortunately in our case, you laugh to our faces, and “we can see you”.

Hon. Members, I shall refrain from commenting on the large scale on corruption in this province when it comes to land restitution as this is a topic on its own, which I hope this house will debate soon.

Moving on, Hon Speaker, the EFF has got one thing on their mind and that is land reform. If I had the Slogan, Economic Freedom in our lifetime, I would much rather spend time on developing ways and means make this economy grow. We need the economy to grow by 8% per year, to ensure that jobs are created, in order to alleviate poverty.  If we are able to create jobs, residents will be able to earn capital to spend on whatever they deem fit, whether it be buying shares in companies, saving for a nest egg or buying land.

The DA’s point of view on this matter is easy. Property rights is in fact one of the three pillars of liberalism. The DA believes that every person has the right to own land, to own the title deed of the land he owns, and should be able to use this title deed either as security to loan from a bank, or to sell and get income.

We have to however make a very big distinction between land for agriculture and land for residential purpose. 4 minutes is too little to give the DA’s entire plan for the restitution of land. I do however want to invite all members of this house to go and read what successes the Western Cape government has under the stern leadership of Minister Alan Winde. A visionary plan with the best success rate to reform land this country has ever seen.

What I can say to highlight is the following: I am sure this will be quite a rude awakening if we can see how many private sector owners are willing to sell their land. This is mainly due to the uncertainty private owners have, due to a lack of leadership by the ANC. Private owners are not willing to invest capital into infrastructure on their property because they are not sure where this is going. This is a huge threat to our food security in the medium and long term.

Hon Speaker, the DA has the plan to effectively reform land. Resident of this province should just give us a chance to implement this policy.

I thank you.

MEC Somyo confirms – no fish farm for Algoa Bay

By Ross Purdon (MPL), Shadow MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism:

Fears that a fish farm may be established at Hobie Beach in Algoa Bay can be put to rest once and for all.  In a reply to a speech I made last Friday (subs:  23 October) during Taking Legislature to the People in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Economic Affairs, Environment and Tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo confirmed that there will be not fish farm for Algoa Bay.

The DA welcomes this confirmation, as we have, together with business and residents, vigorously opposed this project due to its location off PE’s Hobie Beach and the risk it held for the local tourism industry.

We also welcome the recent announcement by the Premier, Phumullo Masualle, that aquaculture is to be established in Zone 10 of the Coega IDZ.  The DA believes that we must create economic growth and jobs, but this must be done in a responsible and fair manner to make this province a place of rising opportunity for all.

MEC Somyo conformed in his speech that he and the Metro, had requested Minister Molewa to make a concise decision and ban fish farming in that area.  See transcript and translation.  He stated that they had discussions with Minister Molewa and his department together with the metro and told her that no one can farm fish in close proximity to hotels.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa recently set aside a decision to grant environmental authorisation to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the proposed sea-based aquaculture zone in Algoa Bay.

Minister Molewa reverted the matter to the Deputy DG:  Legal Authorities, Compliance and Enforcement of the Department of Environmental Affairs for reconsideration.

The onus was put on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to assess alternate sites to produce feasibility studies.

Water is Life: Crisis revealed as KZN spends just 2% of drought relief funding

By Ann McDonnell, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA):

THE word ‘crisis’ is often used – and words that are used a lot lose their impact. With this in mind, we need a stronger word for the precipice KZN is facing when it comes to water.

The Umvoti River and both the White and Black Umfolozi rivers are dry.  The Buffalo River has stopped flowing and Hazelmere Dam is around 20% full.  Pictures in today’s Witness show the dreadful state of our water storage dams. Having just done the road trip to Mozambique and Swaziland, the picture there is just as bleak.

Since we are attempting to close the stable door while the horse is trying to bolt, I will use today’s debate to offer possible solutions to this massive problem.  The people of KZN are looking to us – our people are suffering.

We must find solutions.

Now is the time for real Leadership in our province. Now is the time to lead by example and educate our people in the way we use water.

Everything we do must be interrogated.  How much water is being used in activities such as mining, energy generation, industry and manufacturing and even printing of the copious documents we get burdened with in the Legislature?  All of these are ‘waterholic’ activities.

While we need these activities for job creation it cannot be at the expense of the lives of people and their food security.

The DA believes that water shortages are the result of poor water management, poor infrastructure management and inadequate contingency planning for drought.  These are ANC failures.

Increased drought and flooding were foretold by various Climate Change congresses yet government carried on with business as usual.

Today’s debate on a motion from the IFP’s Hon Msimango is most relevant at this time. It may sound trite to say that there is no life without water, but it is the truth.

The vast areas in KZN that are without water birthed the successful province-wide DA campaign – Water is Life earlier this year.  The DA still receives calls from desperate people as a result of our campaign.  In March we handed over petition to this Legislature which included suggestions aimed at alleviating the crisis. To date there has been no engagement on this issue.

We must therefore ask – how serious is the ANC about the people who have been waiting for water for years, some of whom are even being charged illegally for precious water by tanker owners and operators?

Our water supply, which has until now been taken for granted, is by no means guaranteed.  Accelerated climate change and global warming means we will go through more severe periods of drought and flooding – both of which are extreme and disastrous to people and infrastructure.

Our immediate responsibility is to store and protect this precious resource in times of decent rainfall.  There may well come a time when there is no rain, when crops fail and famine sets in mainly affecting poor rural residents

The question is – what can we do right now?

  • Firstly, we must urgently get drought disaster relief funds to the people who need it most.

Premier Mchunu applied for disaster funding for KZN in July 2014.  Yet, according to a recent response to a DA question in the National Assembly only 2% – a mere R8million of the R352million grant issued by the Department of Water and Sanitation – has been spent. This does not sound like a government that cares. We need to find out where the blockage is and get the money to those who are facing starvation, loss of livestock and crops.

  • We must clamp down hard on illegal connections, under-reading of meters and those who destroy infrastructure for the purpose of getting free water.

In eThekwini the financial loss reported by the A-G for 2013/2014 was R602.6 million – 237 million litres a day – money that could be used for service delivery.   We cannot continue undervaluing water losses.  The Metro has admitted they are not winning the war against vandalism of infrastructure and water theft.

In Newcastle, water losses are estimated to be as high as 70% – this is completely unsustainable.

The DA-led Cape Town Metro responded proactively to this, drastically minimising water leaks by installing remote read smart meters which can also flag consistent leaks and wastage.  This has saved millions which are being pumped into planning and infrastructure for the future. Through strong visionary leadership water losses are down to 14.5% compared to a national average of almost 30%.

  • We must deal with pollution from broken water treatment works.

Overburdened plants at Mpophomeni are currently impacting on Midmar which is a huge threat to our scarce resources. Hibiscus Coast, Umhlatuze and many others have all recently had large sewerage spills, destroying wet lands or rivers and impacting on tourism and the environment.

COGTA need to own this problem and insist on regular inspections and stand-by generators for pump stations in the event of load shedding or a power failure.  What has happened to the Municipal Water Infrastructure Grant for the storage of water – how and where is this being spent?

In the long term, desalination is the answer.  In the interim we should also work towards using appropriate grades of grey water or partially treated water.  Why is clean, potable drinking water being used for the huge demands of mining, industry and electricity generation? Clean water should be used for humans and their food production – a very different concept to accept.  Again, strong leadership is needed to change people’s behaviour.

To wrap up – KZN’s water supply is in crisis and this Legislature must act quickly and decisively.

We all know how our economy has suffered through Load Shedding under the ANC.

I can assure you, water shedding would present a far bigger problem.

There can be no priority more urgent.