21 September 2017

South Africa: There Are Corrupt Officials in the Agriculture Department - Bheki Cele

An anti-corruption unit should be established to investigate corruption in the agricultural industry, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Bheki Cele said on Thursday.

Cele was speaking at an Agricultural Imbizo in Umlazi, south of Durban, aimed at promoting urban farming.

He said when he recently went to department's offices in Cato Ridge, west of Durban, he discovered that new tractors bought by the government were "covered in grass" instead of helping developing farmers.

"They are just parked there without being utilised. They are covered in grass. We also discovered seeds that had become rotten," he said.

Rotten seeds had also been discovered in Umhlabuyalingana, north of KZN, he said.

"Corrupt officials buy seeds in bulk in order to get their cut [illegal share]. They don't care what happens to the seeds once they get their cut of the profit," he said.

Prison

He labelled those officials as "corruption officials" who should not be called government officials.

"They belong in Westville prison." Cele said the department had decided to manage all its tractors because of corruption in the industry.

"Government usually gave traditional leaders including chiefs and izinduna tractors as community representatives who would be able to control them. We've discovered that some traditional leaders charge a fee whenever a community member wants to use them. The department will now manage them," he said.

He also lambasted the community for paying bribes to government officials when they needed help.

"Conduct business truthfully. Stop paying bribes to government officials because, by bribing an official, [it] also means you are corrupt," he said.

He called for a corruption unit to be established, one that will investigate corruption within the agricultural industry.

Cele said the answer to fighting poverty was through agriculture.

"Three million people in KwaZulu-Natal go to sleep without food when 6 million people receive government grants. Stop wasting money on buying vegetables and fruits but get them from your own gardens. Stop planting roses and flowers, instead plough spinach and cabbages. It doesn't need one to be in a rural area to plough but you can do it in urban areas," he said.

Youth unemployment

He used vertical sack farming as one of the examples of urban farming.

"Through sack farming, you can have a spinach garden in your own kitchen without wasting space," he said.

He said his department was in a drive to get the youth into agriculture.

"You can't have 60% of the youth not working, it's a recipe for disaster. We have to help them. Urban farming is one of the ways that will help," he said.

Most people who interacted with Cele at the imbizo told him that they still had challenges such as funding when they wanted to start their agricultural projects.

Fencing, training and getting into the market were some of the other problems people often faced.

He advised farmers to use government schools, hospitals and jails as their markets before looking at established supermarkets.

Source: News24

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