DA lambastes government 'lack of understanding' on drought crisis

Durban – A DA MP has called Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana’s recent press briefing on the drought crisis, evidence of his “lack of understanding of the impact the drought has South Africans”.

DA shadow minister of the same portfolio, Annette Steyn, said Zokwana displayed a “lack of understanding, intellectualisation as well as dwarf leadership to deal with the crisis brought on by the drought in the respective provinces”.

“The DA once again urges the government to show strong leadership: to declare a national disaster and to immediately establish an ad hoc committee in Parliament.”

Steyn has also called for Zokwana to investigate allegations in the North West that traditional leaders are receiving cows meant to alleviate the suffering of communal farmers.

“Not doing so protects those who already have, and does nothing for ordinary South Africans.”

According to Steyn, a press release by Free State Agriculture (FSA) indicated that livestock farmers in the Free State will need up to R2.984bn in feed to keep their animals alive until the grazing has recovered.

'Crying shame'

“In addition to this, a survey done by the FSA, with 600 farmers as respondents, indicated that 66% will need financial aid in 2016. Only six out of the 600 have received any kind of government assistance. About 11 500 people are dependent on these 600 farmers for jobs,” Steyn said.

Steyn said that R39m allocated for drought relief by Free State MEC for rural development and agrarian reform, Zoleka Capa, “clearly falls short” of the R2.9bn requirement indicated by the survey.

Steyn also criticised that KwaZulu-Natal MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs and rural development, Bonginkosi Radebe, for not adding to the drought debate. In addition, she also singled out Limpopo agriculture MEC, Jacob Marule, about his figures that 51 560 livestock had been affected by the drought in his province and that 2 020 that had already dead.  

“The national livestock mortality figures, it emerged, hovers at a minimum of 5 000 dead already. The Democratic Alliance questions these figures as media reports of approximately 30 000 cattle that died in KZN alone.”

Steyn added that it was “a crying shame” that civil society still takes the lead in relief efforts.

“Whatever assistance government has rendered so far has been inadequate and inappreciable. The lack of tankers and truck loads of feed shows that government has little understanding and no concern for the poor subsistence farmers who are impacted the most by the drought, and for South Africans who will increasingly find it difficult to feed their families.”

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