‘Politics will kill the vegetables’

2013-10-27 14:01

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EFF member running a cooperative says ‘campaigning’ is not good for farming

The leader of a Northern Cape organic agricultural cooperative where President Jacob Zuma this week launched government’s latest food-security project has complained that party political “campaigning” will kill his cooperative’s vegetables.

Sydney Moacwi, chairperson of the board of directors of the Manyeding Agricultural Cooperative, said: “This is an organic farm. You cannot come here with your external agendas. If you campaign, the vegetables will die.”

On Thursday, Zuma went to Kuruman to launch Fetsa Tlala (Eradicate Hunger) on the farm, established on communal land near Kuruman.

Moacwi, who recently defected from the ANC to Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was almost prevented from speaking to Zuma by local politicians.

But his board overruled the gagging at the last minute.

“I was told I was not going to speak and when I asked why they are uncomfortable, they said the red-berets people (the EFF) are very rude and will embarrass the minister (of agriculture, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who hosted the project),” he said.

Moacwi was also unhappy that young spinach plants were trampled as villagers, officials and journalists jostled to get a closer look at Zuma as he caught a lift on a tractor planting maize seeds.

Yellow T-shirts bearing an image of Zuma’s face, closely resembling ANC T-shirts but with the name of the project and a 20-years-of-democracy logo on them, were distributed at the event, along with green overalls and work boots.

Moacwi said the T-shirts were part of the strategy to campaign for the ANC at a government event.

“I was in the ANC Youth League and the ANC, and that is what we always did,” he said.

The ANC used a mass event later in the day at Batlharos, about 30km from the agricultural project, to hand out T-shirts with Zuma’s face and an ANC flag on them to people leaving the rally.

On the back, government logos sat side by side with one of the ANC’s current election slogans: “We have a good story to tell. Together we have made South Africa a better place than it was in 1994.”

Moacwi also said he felt the project’s private sector partner, Kumba Iron Ore, did not get sufficient mention.

Zuma mentioned the company in passing at the mass event, but at the cooperative, the Kumba representatives were reduced to spectators.

Kumba helped establish the project in 2010 and has poured R8 million into it since then.

Mashilo Mokotong, the manager of sustainable development at Kumba, said they were surprised not to get a mention, “but we are not doing this for the publicity”.

He said the company welcomed the involvement of specialists from the department of agriculture, which has allocated R5 million to the project this year.

The department has also allocated R2 billion to put 1 million hectares of fallow land into production.

Thursday’s launch was similar to a range of rural-development launches in the past two years, which Zuma also attended.

But representatives of Masibambisane, the NGO headed by Zuma and run by his cousin Deebo Mzobe were absent, as was Mzobe himself.

Joemat-Pettersson recently told City Press her department would not use Mzobe’s NGO any longer because it had done its job.

As recently as June, Masibambisane was still leading the planning for government’s food-security strategy. It was supposed to have involved a range of government departments and almost R1 billion was set aside for the NGO’s projects.

There was, however, a notable absence of ministers on Thursday. Previously, a range of ministers had been in attendance, including Gugile Nkwinti (rural development), Thulas Nxesi (public works), Edna Molewa (water affairs) and Malusi Gigaba (public enterprises).

The Manyeding project has 158 beneficiaries.

Zuma also announced the handing over of 24 Nguni cattle, 20 goats and 100 egg-laying hens to indigent families for subsistence and business.

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