Minister rues Cape farmworker efforts

2013-07-29 19:48
Tina Joemat-Pettersson (Picture: Beeld

Tina Joemat-Pettersson (Picture: Beeld

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Cape Town - Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson on Monday lamented the lack of progress in addressing farmworkers’ issues in the Western Cape.

She expressed this sentiment to her provincial counterpart Gerrit van Rensburg in a meeting in Cape Town, her spokesperson Palesa Mokomele said.

She claimed little had been done since Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and her department intervened after labour-related protests in the province last year.

Farming towns across the province came to a standstill between November and February this year during a workers' protest against poor wages and harsh living conditions. De Doorns was the epicentre of the protests.

The protests led to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant increasing the daily minimum wage for farmworkers to R105 in February, after input by farmers and workers.

Joemat-Pettersson said on Monday that farmworkers' issues were not political.

"At the crux of the issue are service delivery issues. There is no programme to address rural development in the Western Cape, and whatever programme there is, it is not adequately addressing the needs of farmworkers in the province. We have reached a point where we will have to intervene again in trying to resolve these issues."

Van Rensburg said he had a cordial relationship with the minister, but felt he needed to correct her on issues she raised during the meeting.

"It is not true that nothing is happening in rural development in the Western Cape," he said.

"As a matter of fact, the Western Cape has in the short time span since 2009 become the national champion of rural development, and has developed an approach and framework which has been adopted by the national government."

He said his department was the only department in the country with a dedicated farmworker programme, which received no financial support from national government.

"Motlanthe has so far convened two dialogue sessions in the Western Cape: In Paarl in February 2013, and again in De Doorns in May this year. These dialogue sessions have resulted in nothing more than hot air. No plans; no budgets; not even meeting notes," he said.

"If these meetings did not take place, nothing would have been different. This is in stark contrast to the Western Cape government's approach."

12-point plan

This was a 12-point plan the province adopted in April, with a budget of R17.4m for farmworker development.

"The 12-point plan was officially announced at Deputy President Motlanthe's second dialogue event in De Doorns on 11 May. Minister Joemat-Pettersson was the chair of that meeting."

Part of the plan included the Future for Agriculture and Rural Economy, a body established to get input from all parties and one which he said the ANC supported.

"As provincial minister, I am asking the national minister not to destabilise the situation, and to rise above political rhetoric. It is high time the national minister becomes the custodian of agriculture in South Africa," Van Rensburg said.

Joemat-Pettersson intended writing a letter to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to inform her there was no capacity to deal with farmworkers' problems in the province.

Mokomele said the department would arrange a meeting with relevant parties in the sector.

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