The continued drought in the Eastern Cape has long ago reached a crisis point, and yet a provincial drought disaster has still not been declared.
Today, 26 September 2019, I wrote to Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane to step in, as pleas from the farming sector to the Department of Rural and Development Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) have fallen on deaf ears.
I have therefore given the Premier until close of business on Monday next week to submit a plan regarding steps to be taken to have the province declared a disaster area.
The Sarah Baartman and Amathole District Municipalities have already been declared drought disaster areas, while the Chris Hani District is also crippled by the drought.
Despite many requests from the farming sector the provincial government has done nothing to declare the province a disaster area and seek financial assistance from National Treasury.
The inaction of the EC DRDAR is all the more shocking taking into account its budget for the 2019/20 financial year. The department proposes spending R83 million on Travel and Subsistence, R10,7 million on catering, R9,8 million on Advisory consultants and R9,5 million on advertising. This while the budget allocation for much needed Farmer Support and Development is being reduced by R8,5 million.
Farmers on the Western side of this province continue to buy feed for their livestock on a weekly basis and as a result, in many cases, are facing financial ruin. In some instances farmers already opted to sell most of their livestock as they simply don’t have the means to buy feed.
I was recently informed that, due to the prolonged nature of the drought, voluntary fodder and cash donations have all but been exhausted and although efforts are ongoing at all levels, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make any real impact in relief efforts.
In order to take quick action, or action that is outside of the ordinary, or to apply for relief funding, it is necessary to have a provincial state of disaster declared and maintained as long as necessary. This is a requirement of the Disaster Management Act of 2002.
District municipalities must own up to the responsibility of monitoring drought conditions and it is time for the government to take ownership of drought management. Failing to do so will result in the further collapse of the rural economy and large scale job losses in a province where unemployment is unacceptably high.
The DA implores Premier Mabuyane to acknowledge the magnitude of the government’s inaction and declare a disaster before it is too late for Eastern Cape agriculture and the rural economy.
Only a DA government can ensure the ongoing success of the agricultural sector and prevent rising unemployment and economic collapse during prolonged periods of crisis.
Retief Odendaal MPL
DA EC Shadow MEC of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform
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