MPs challenge Senzeni Zokwana on 5.6 million hungry SAns, land reform

2014-07-17 06:00

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The core business of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department is to ensure food security for all, but opposition parties believe the department is not doing enough in this regard.

Over a fifth of South Africa’s citizens “suffered severe inadequate access to food”, United Democratic Movement MP Mncedisi Filtane yesterday told Parliament during the debate on the department’s budget.

He challenged Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana to do something about it.

“A total of 11% of South Africans – 5.6 million people – actually experience hunger as we speak now.

“Minister, you are challenged to change this situation.”

Earlier, Zokwana said the agriculture sector’s 2.7% contribution to the country’s GDP was “far below capacity”.

“At the moment, we know that 12 million South Africans are food insecure.”

However, one million hectares of land in rural areas lay fallow.

Zokwana said stock theft remained a major problem.

“Stock theft ... remains a major issue compounding the business of agriculture and general safety on farms,” he said.

Speaking during the debate, Democratic Alliance Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said that while the department had made food security an apex priority, “this will not be achievable in the long term unless the uncertainty around land reform is addressed”.

Commercial farmers would not invest in modern technology unless such certainty existed, he warned.

“There needs to be a lot more synergy between [agriculture] and [Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile] Nkwinti’s department. Because he’s out there sowing uncertainty, and you’re trying to sow certainty, and it’s not clear.

“So the continuing demonisation of farmers in our country has to come to an end. It drives away talent, and it’s a zero-sum game that will benefit no one in South Africa,” he said.

Responding at the end of the debate, Zokwana sought to reassure commercial farmers on the land reform issue.

“We don’t need to erect scarecrows, to make as if people must be afraid to farm because something big is about to happen ... Let’s not make farmers scared when government proposes legislation.”

He called on opposition parties to join hands with his department, which spent time speaking to farmers.

“In our department, we don’t see colour, we see farmers. All of them are important,” said Zokwana.

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