Unions seething over drought funding revocation

The Farmers United for South Africa (FUSA) and the Agri SA are seething with dissatisfaction following an announcement by the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, Dr Maphaka Tau, to revoke the classification of the 2020 drought as a National Disaster.

“Our members have inundated us with calls that they have not been supported in drought relief efforts since 2018. Where has this money gone to, we want to know” said FUSA President Ronnie McKenzie.

According to FUSA, there was little evidence that the Fund was indeed distributed to the farmers in need. More worryingly, the qualifying criteria of farmers seemed to favour those with political and government officials’ leanings.

“What happened to the R6 billion set aside by the former Minister of Finance Melusi Gigaba? We want to see the figures, how many farmers were assisted and received drought relief from government since then up to now?” added McKenzie.

Agri SA also joined the chorus of dissatisfaction with the announcement made by Tau.

“This type of ill-considered and reactionary announcement by the National Disaster Management Centre boggles the mind. During the past few years, the government has made no real effort to alleviate the long-term impact that the lingering drought has had on commercial agriculture in certain area “said Andrea Campher, Disaster Risk Manager at Agri SA.

FUSA was further irked by the R260-million drought-relief support launched last year by government in the Northern Cape.

“Northern Cape purportedly received R43 million out of the grant but still today, farmers are being hit hard by the drought. Surely, the R43 million was not to buy fodder alone? How many of our farmers must go bust before something happens”

McKenzie warned that the ill-considered decision by Tau to abruptly declare the drought to be over showed total disregard for farmers.

“Who did they consult, and we want to know what research instrument was used to arrive at such an unfortunate decision? Government is really on a course to agitate farmers and they are begging for a farmers revolt” he added.

Campher slated the R139 million disaster relief fund as being a fraction of the actual costs to the agricultural sector over the past 5 to 8 years.

“Agri SA therefore demands that the government provide comprehensive reasons – based on reliable research – why the drought is no longer deemed a national disaster. In addition, the organisation would like to know what the government is going to do to assist commercial agriculture in areas where farmers have suffered severe drought conditions over the years.”

FUSA on the other hand, demanded a detailed breakdown of names of the beneficiaries, budget allocated per farmer and called on the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to intervene as a matter of urgency.

 “Failure by the department to act on the request by FUSA, it will be forced to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act OF 2000 to get the information” added McKenzie.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) had already written to the Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu to audit the fund.

“Whilst we may be asking for a considerable commitment from you, I believe that the exercise is essential in order to enable Parliament to understand the extent of any need to amend legislation in order to strengthen oversight over disaster funding allocations” stated the DA letter to Makwetu.

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