MEC and his Department have not honoured their promises to the people

Democratic Alliance media statement by Sizwe Mchunu, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development

 

MEC and his Department have not honoured their promises to the people

 

WHEN MEC Themba Mthembu delivered his maiden Budget speech last year, the DA was the first to commend him for addressing certain critical matters. We did, however, caution him that we would judge him by his actions towards achieving the policy or budgetary objectives he had set for both himself and his Department.

 

It was soon clear that the MEC was not going to be able to meet his own targets when, about two weeks after that Budget Speech, KZN MEC for Economic Development and Tourism and leader of Government Business Sihle Zikalala presented an executive statement to members of the Legislature on the “rationalization of KZN/State entities”. This rationalization was in direct contrast to the plans announced by the MEC during his Budget Debate.

 

Today, this rationalization process has still not taken place. Nor has the MEC Mthembu’s commitment to turning things around within his Department – in particular its limping entities.  And so the answer to ‘who do we believe’ is quite simply – ‘no one’ when it comes to the ANC. It is also disheartening today, that while we debate issues of Agriculture, a growing number of people are losing jobs within KZN’s agricultural sector, with thousands of people within the poultry industry having either lost their jobs or been retrenched.

 

During the past financial year, the Department of Agriculture dedicated a paltry 20% of its budget to its core mandate. The other 80-odd-percent of the total budget has been spent on everything but this. How then can anybody be expected to believe that this Department would create jobs for the poor, attract and assist emerging farmers and change the lives of people in KwaZulu-Natal for the better?

Today there are two elephants in the room which cannot go unmentioned – the recent and dominant debate on Land restitution and the issue of remuneration of Izinduna. The issue of Land restitution and the manner in which it has been handled in some political quarters, poses a serious threat to Agriculture in KZN in general, as well as to our Agricultural economy and food security. It is critical that this ANC government is careful as to how it handles the threats – not just to Land restitution but also to the broader agricultural economy. Just this weekend eShowe was again on fire and one wonders if such actions are likely to appear in other parts of our beautiful province.

 

In terms of the remuneration of Izinduna. The DA is not opposed to this however we are of the view that this is an unfunded provincial mandate and needs to be funded by the National government. This particular expenditure has imposed a serious financial burden on the Department of Agriculture and Rural development and has negatively impacted on service delivery. Like all other the Departments of this government, Zuma’s ANC’s 1% Tax increase stands to cripple this department and will make it even more difficult for it to rescue the poor from the chains of poverty through the creation of sustainable jobs and opportunities.

 

Within the Department itself, reports of instability and lack of professionalism in within Supply Chain Management are very disturbing and it is difficult to understand why it has taken the more than seven years to fill the post of Supply Chain Manager. This requires urgent and decisive action. Meanwhile, the post of HOD is still vacant.

 

Another internal concern is that of Rural Development, its budget and staffing and whether the MEC and his Department understand their mandate in this regard. The DA remains concerned that the introduction of Rural Development as a stand-alone/separate Department was haphazardly imposed on this government by former President Zuma, without any further policy or structural systems. This is borne out by the fact that here in KZN there are only one or two employees designated for Rural Development. The DA’s founding principles of redress and diversity are our unreserved acknowledgement of the imbalances imposed by apartheid and the urgent need to address them. This means that we are in full support of Rural Development initiatives which we believe must provide opportunities for rural communities to realize their full potential.

 

In terms of KZN’s entities, ADA, uMjindi, iNtingwe and Natal Trust Fund are unnecessary financial burdens to the department. They have failed. ADA, uMjindi and iNtingwe in particular, have not achieved any of their founding objectives. Get rid of them. The DA also wants to know today – what happened to your promise of establishing an Agricultural Commercial Entity, which will incorporate Umjindi and ADA? We are still eagerly waiting to see and interrogate the Terms and Reference of this promised entity. Talk is cheap and as I said before – we can only measure your credibility by your actions.

 

Then there are is the outstanding investigation into corruption within the Department. According to the findings, certain service providers had violated procurement procedures, inflated prices, colluded with Departmental officials, amongst others. Yet almost five years later, this matter has not been put to bed. Why not? Why have the culprits both in terms of service providers and officials not been named and shamed? Are the findings of the said forensic investigations worth the amount of money and resources dedicated to it? The fact that the findings have not been subjected or tested in a court of law is indicative of this ANC government’s failure to deal with corruption head-on.

 

The DA is ready to turn around KZN’s agricultural sector through proper financial management, rooting out of corruption, streamlining of entities and tried and tested initiatives which will assist the most poor and vulnerable in our province’s rural communities.

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