Fires: Farmers haven’t seen relief

2009-03-02 00:00

THE actual distribution date for the R40-million relief allocated to farmers who suffered agricultural losses in KwaZulu-Natal from the 2007 fire storms remains unknown, eight months after the money was allocated by the Agriculture and Environment Affairs Department.

The announcement of the allocation of funds raised hopes for the farmers last year, but the distribution was further delayed. Farmers who lost millions of rands to fires across an estimated 59 000 hectares of the midlands in June 2007 will have to wait until an unknown date for the funds to be released.

The delay in the process of distributing the relief funds has caused more suffering for the farmers who are trying to revive their businesses.

Department spokesman Khulekani Ntshangase said the department does not have the capacity to distribute the funds.

“There were a number of processes that needed to be done to finalise the actual distribution,” he said.

Department MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu is expected to announce the roll-out of the distribution, but Ntshangase could not say when this will take place.

“Mthimkhulu will announce the date of the distribution and the actual steps on how this will be done. Beneficiaries should be aware that this money will only assist them to recover from the losses, but not reimburse the total amount of their losses.”

Ntshangase said farmers will then be issued certificates with which they can claim money from the Ithala Bank. He said the process of enrolling the bank also contributed to the delays.

Kwanalu chief executive officer Sandy La Marque said farmers continue to suffer while waiting for aid.

“Some farmers were left with nothing and have been struggling to survive; the department should expedite the distribution.”

She said Kwanalu facilitated the processes of providing information to do assessments of damage to the department. The money was allocated for various relief schemes.

“I am aware that about R10 million has been implemented for other schemes such as the feed relief, but we do not know when the distribution of the balance will be implemented,” she said.

The fires caused damage to timber and sugar plantations and livestock farms. Some 8 000 farm labourers, each of whom have six to eight dependents, totalling around 50 000 people, were left destitute.

sandilez@witness.co.za

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