26 November 2013

South Africa: Drought Crisis - Gov Must Urgently Intervene

Photo: AfDB
"We don't know when it will happen, but we are overdue for drought so we need to start planning for the worst and hope for the best," said Dr Ronnie McKenzie, managing director of the engineering company Water Resource Planning (file photo).

press release

The DA is concerned that national government does not appear to have taken any aggressive action to mitigate the effects of what is reported to be South Africa's 'worst drought since 1933'.

According to media reports, as a result of the drought, farmers in some parts of the country have had to cull up to a third of their livestock. This could result in meat shortages in five months, seriously affecting South Africa's food security.

The DA will write to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Presidency and National Treasury requesting that an urgent Summit be convened to formulate a plan to safeguard the country's food security.

At the Summit, all stakeholders, including farmers, farming organisations, and the relevant government departments should discuss the allocation of disaster management funding for drought relief as contained in the following budgets:

Each province has a provincial disaster grant that is managed by the National Disaster Management Centre in the Department of Cooperative Governance. This grant allows for the immediate release of funds if a disaster is declared.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has a conditional grant that can be utilised towards disaster recovery projects.

Treasury has a contingency reserve fund that is there to react to crises such as emergencies and unforeseeable events. However, according to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement, the entire R4 billion contingency reserves have already been allocated for 2013.

Just earlier this month, President Jacob Zuma pledged a R100-million aid package from the South African government to help alleviate the effects of a drought in Namibia.

While this is commendable, it is tragic that the South African government is leaving South African farmers in the lurch. Either funds are being delayed, or the amount given to farmers is wholly insufficient as evidenced by only R43.6 million being approved by government for the drought-stricken North-West despite R400 million being requested.

Action from the government is needed now to prevent South Africa's food security from being compromised.

Annette Steyn, Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

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