DA wants numbers on Nkandla ‘benefits’

2012-09-24 00:00

AGRICULTURE, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson should explain how the Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative (MRDI) — aimed at developing rural economies — would lift and benefit those communities, said the Democratic Alliance (DA) recently.

The programme uses agriculture to help rural communities fight poverty and unemployment.

In a statement released on Friday, DA spokesperson on agriculture, Annette Steyn, said they were concerned that there is no business plan guiding the initiative.

The MRDI, which is chaired by President Jacob Zuma, has come under heavy criticism in the past few months after it was revealed that it will build a new R2-billion town at Nkandla, a few kilometres from President Jacob Zuma’s homestead.

There have also been allegations that the Agriculture Department will put up close to R1 billion for the project.

Steyn said they were concerned about the value of the project and its impact on the lives it is supposed to empower.

“I wrote to Minister Joemat-Pettersson, asking her to spell out the economic benefit of the MRDI to the rural people it is supposed to empower. She has yet to respond and her reply to the parliamentary questions in this regard provides no evidence of such benefits.

“She simply states — as though this holds without real evidence — that ‘there is an increase in food security where the initiative has been rolled out … and it is contributing to agricultural productivity’.”

The ministry’s spokesperson, Palesa Mokomele, said the Masibambisane programme created partnerships in developing rural areas.

“We identify what the area needs to develop by speaking to the small farmers, and from there we get the necessary department or private sponsor to ensure that we improve food security and create employment opportunities,” she said.

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