The Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform presented responses to the issues and concerns the Portfolio Committee had raised during its oversight visit to the province recently. The Committee also agreed on the set guidelines for the nomination of people to serve on the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC).
Mr Mlibo Qoboshiyane, Member of the Executive Committee (MEC), Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, said the workings of the provincial department were in line with the national mandate to help young people, disabled people and women -- especially those located in the deep rural areas -- to participate in the sector and fight poverty. The provincial department had cascaded its agricultural development plans. This was going to help in job creation and the revival of agriculture in the province. Agriculture was the hope of the province, based on its natural resource base. There were plans in place to make use of land that was available and under-utilised. The planning had been done and the provincial department was working on the effective implementation of plans.
Mr Lumkile Ngada, Head of Department: Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform took the Committee through the responses to the concerns and questions the Committee had raised during its oversight visit. These dealt with:
- The budget provided by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) versus the provincial appropriation.
- The agricultural sector’s contribution to the provincial gross domestic product (GDP) was going down -- what was the department planning to improve the situation?
- Rescue plans for the Majola and Magwa tea enterprises, and the money owed to Magwa employees.
- The use of the piggery on the Prinsloo Farm in the Blue Crane Route Municipality by people who were not the intended beneficiaries.
- The workings and beneficiaries of the Coza Community Maize Project in Nyandeni.
- Overview of the performance of aquaculture and agro-processing in the East London Industrial Development Zone (IDZ).
- The status quo regarding the planned mariculture project in the Coega IDZ.
- How livestock would be taken advantage of in the Berlin Agro-Industry Park.
- The working and beneficiaries of the Indyebo Farmers Project.
- Reasons for building a new pack house at Ripplemead in Peddie while there were a number of such structures that were not 100% utilised in the area.
- An Update on the Alfred Nzo goat project.
Ms Siphokazi Ndudane, Acting Deputy Director-General: Fisheries Management, DAFF, provided responses related to the Fisheries Management. The questions she responded to centred on the following:
- Reasons for the slow growth in the aquaculture sector and how the sector could attract new job seekers.
- Who runs fisheries in the Eastern Cape.
- How the Department was planning to revitalise the Mthatha dam hatchery.
- How the number of productions and job targets set were going to be achieved within a short space of time.
- The extent of poaching along the coast.
- An update on the Small-scale Fisheries Policy.
- Extension officers assigned to fisheries, and the availability of training modules for fisheries extension officers.
- Progress in the implementation of the Small-scale Fisheries Act.
- The reaction of people to the proposed cooperatives for small-scale fishermen.
Mr Bheki Cele, Deputy Minister: DAFF, said a lot of deliberation was needed on the issue of the piggery at Prinsloo Farm which was being used by people who were not the intended beneficiaries. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) had to see how it was going to deal with the matter, because this was an Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) farm.
On the issue of fisheries in the Eastern Cape, he pointed out that the country did not have an “East Coast,” only a “West Coast.” Warm water temperatures were cited as the main reason for having only a few species in the area. Therefore Operation Phakisa had to focus on the East Coast, which had to be utilised to the maximum for the benefit of the sector and the population.
Ms Ndudane told the Committee the DAFF had held deliberations during the recent summit in the Eastern Cape on how to maximise Operation Phakisa along the East Coast with the few species available in the area. There was fish in the Eastern Cape, but no research had been done. Commercial fishing had been practised along the West Coast for a long time, unlike in the East Coast -- it was a historical thing. The Department was trying to work with Walter Sisulu University, Fort Hare University, and Rhodes University. There were two researchers who were going to be commissioned to do work from Fort Hare.
Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) asked if it was not possible to prevent what had happened at the Prinsloo Farm.
Mr Ngada said that collaboration between the DAFF and DRDLR would help limit the occurrence of incidents of this nature. There were many farms that had the same problem as at Prinsloo Farm.
Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) wanted clarity on the approximately R23 million that had not been paid to the employees of the Magwa Plantation.
Mr Ngada explained that the Magwa Plantation used to be profitable. It was supposed to look after its employees, but now the state had had to intervene and pay their salaries. The money that it generated now was only for maintenance, electricity and water. That was why there was a need for the rescue plan.
The Chairperson remarked that DAFF needed to standardise the funds that were to be paid by farmers, regarding the grants. The Eastern Cape farmer could not pay R1 800 while a Limpopo farmer, on the other hand, was not paying at all. She also said that the Auditor-General had reported that provinces had contributed to the DAFF’s qualified audit opinion because they had not sent financial and quarterly reports to the national office. She encouraged the provinces to speedily furnish the national office with documents in time. Lastly, the Chairperson wanted to know how far the Department had progressed in addressing the issue of extension officers.
Mr Ngada reported that they had had a meeting with the provincial Director-General and discussed the prioritisation of the core problem that related to the extension officers. They had created a programme of extension assistants, because some of the graduates had National Qualifications Framework 6 (NQF6) from colleges, and not the required NQF7. However, that programme had now been done away with, and those NQF6 graduates were going to be taken on as interns. The Eastern Cape had the largest number of extension officers compared to other provinces, but it had not managed to meet the norms and standards required for extension officers, due to the size of the province.
The meeting was adjourned.