Declare national disaster for drought now - DA

2016-04-14 21:07
DA (Supplied)

DA (Supplied)

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Cape Town – The government should declare the drought a national disaster and increase social grants to cover rising food prices to avert a potential catastrophe for millions of people, DA MP Annette Steyn said on Thursday.

"We again today ask the national government to declare this drought a national disaster," said Steyn.

"We are almost the only country now in the southern African region that has not been declared a national disaster," she said after Malawi became the latest southern African country to raise the red flag over diminishing supplies of staple food, rising food prices and expected late harvests.

In November, South Africa declared five provinces drought disaster areas – North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Free State. Parts of the Western Cape and Gauteng were also declared disaster areas.

"We've just had the discussion that we might not have food on our shelves. We have seen this in the rest of Africa. It can happen here," said Steyn with cabbages, bread, meat and sugar arranged on her desk and on the floor of the briefing room of the party's offices at Parliament.

Food parcels

The food was bought at a cost R3 585.53 to see how much it would cost a family of five to get the minimum recommended nutritional requirements.

They found that the cost was far more than what many families could afford and did not include toiletries, school extras or nappies.

Steyn said that according to information presented to Parliament, an estimated 34 million people would be affected if plans were not put in place urgently through the declaration of a national disaster.

"A proper impact assessment needs to be done, the necessary funds should be made available, and relief – including the distribution of food parcels – should be rolled out through a centralised and targeted drought management plan," she said.

A task team from the department of monitoring and evaluation should also be asked to release a food security report.

According to information presented by Steyn, the full effects of the drought would be seen at the end of July and the beginning of August.

Maize imports

She said department of agriculture crop estimates showed South Africa would have to import about 1.28 million tons of maize during the 2015/16 marketing season and 3.8 million tons during the 2016/17 marketing season. Steyn said, according to some estimates, this could rise even higher to around 7.2 million tons of maize alone.

Farmers were already warning that crops were stunted and many had failed to germinate and grow because of the parched conditions.

"Even if we have a flood it will not help," she said, as the El Niño weather pattern's grip persisted. If need be, people should be encouraged to cull ailing cattle so that they could at least benefit before the cattle die of starvation, she said.

Questions on electricity and other running costs should be asked of manufacturers and retailers to explain how these components were contributing to price increases.

Social grant increases inadequate

Fellow MP, Karen de Kock, who is on Parliament's social development committee, said that although government social grants were controversial, the money was well spent and much needed.

"It is not wasted as is often thought," De Kock said.

She said the modest social grant increases announced by Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan in February in his Budget speech were completely inadequate to offset drastic food price increases.

The child support grant of R330 rose to R350; the foster care grant from R860 to R890, the disability grant from R1 410 to R1 500, the War Veterans Grant from R1 430 to R1 520 and the Care Dependency Grant from R1 410 to R1 500.

After the briefing the food would be donated to a night shelter in Cape Town.

Read more on:    drought

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