Picketers demand consultation on state’s food policy

2015-04-17 12:32

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Hundreds of activists are picketing outside the offices of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department in Pretoria, demanding better consultation on South Africa’s food policy.

The picket started at about 10am.

Civil society organisations – including Oxfam and the Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation – and concerned citizens from across Gauteng delivered a signed petition and memorandum demanding that the government conducts proper public consultation on the national policy on food and nutrition security and its implementation plan.

The policy aimed to provide for the right of all South Africans to have to access to sufficient food as stated in section 27 of the Constitution. More than 13 million people face hunger on a regular basis – and in some cases on a daily basis – in South Africa.

Civil society organisations believed that the government had failed to adequately consult the people worst affected by the issues the policy aimed to address. They maintained that the policy had several gaps as a result.

According to a statement, on March 17 and 18, after weeks of intense lobbying by a group of 20 civil society organisations, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department finally held a two-day consultation session but only invited five organisations.

Closing the session, the department announced it would accept written submissions on the implementation plan until March 27. This move had the potential to exclude the majority of citizens. The time frame given was also very short.

“They cannot bring such a huge document to our communities and expect us to comment in such a short time. This is a new document that we have never seen or heard of yet we live daily with hunger in our communities,” said Meshack Mbangula of the Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation. Mbangula was speaking at an Oxfam workshop held recently to raise awareness of the policy.

Community representatives attending the workshop signed a petition demanding to know why the government continued to violate citizens’ right to be heard.

Oxfam, Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation, the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, Section27, the Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre and partners called on the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department to:

» Hold multiple consultation sessions across the country, including in hard-to-reach communities who are most vulnerable to hunger;

» Undertake a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of the consultations among communities most affected by food insecurity

» Give adequate notice of consultation sessions to ensure interested parties have the opportunity to participate;

» Issue invitations to a diverse range of properly identified interested parties, including grassroots movements;

» Provide sufficient time between consultations and expected finalisation of the documents for consideration and incorporation of outcomes of the consultation; and

» Consider comments and representations from the consultation with an open mind so that it informs the policy-making process.

Officials from the agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister’s office attended the march and addressed the protesters.

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