The Committee was briefed on the government’s disaster management programmes by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, who highlighted some of the lessons learnt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included the need for a more responsive, integrated, coherent and agile government, accelerated communication to bring issues closer to the people, and greater use of technology to enable quick, effective decisions.
The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, Forestry and Fisheries, described its drought relief funding and the provincial funding allocations, and stated that natural disasters continued to threaten the livelihood of the farming communities and the sector at large. It was still a challenge to have budgets allocated for disasters at the provincial and local level.
The Human Sciences Research Council said that at the national level, South Africa was regarded as being food secure, but there was widespread hunger and malnutrition at the household level. There was poor capacity to diagnose why the national policy on food and nutrition was not working. The reasons of this were weak coordination mechanisms for ensuring food security, policy environment was fragmented, and the process was encumbered by too many actors, conflictual institutions, lack of socio-economic change and social fragmentation.
Members, who were participating on a virtual platform, expressed disappointment at the government’s response to farmers’ pleas for drought relief support. There were claims that racial bias was sometimes involved in the allocation of funds, and that funds supposed to be used to provide fodder for dying livestock were being used instead for boreholes in communities where municipalities had failed to provide water. It also emerged during discussion that once funds were dispersed to the provinces, there was a lack of monitoring to ensure the funds were used for their intended purposes. There were also complaints about the long process of releasing funds intended for disaster relief
Other issues discussed included the need for South Africa to catch up with the rest of the world in respect of the fourth industrial revolution, as technology was essential in fields such as communication, education, defence and commerce. Climate change posed a huge challenge for the country, which had to deal with the interrelated issues of food and nutrition security, climate change and disaster management. A Member said scientists were forecasting that what the world was experiencing was not the worst of pandemics -- it was only a forerunner of what was likely to come -- so what was in store for vulnerable countries like SA was going to be huge and difficult to manage.
Disaster management and drought relief programmes
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), took the Committee through the Department’s national disaster management framework (NDMF), its disaster management programmes, the disaster relief grants, and its progress on research projects conducted to determine the correct amount of resource allocation for the affected provinces. The compliance status of the provincial disaster management centres was highlighted.
The Minister highlighted the lessons learnt with COVID-19 pandemic as follows:
- The Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 had played a huge role in containing the Covid-19 pandemic infections and related fatalities.
- More responsive, integrated, coherent and agile government.
- Government communication became accelerated, bringing issues closer to the people.
- Take up of technology enabled quick, effective decisions.
- Quality, disaggregated data supported effective, evidence-based decision-making.
- There was a need to ramp-up awareness on the need for societal behavioural change.
- There was a need to strengthen enforcement of restrictions, especially as the lock-down levels dropped down, with heightened societal vigilance through advocacy and awareness measures, as per the Disaster Management Act and health legislation.
- Self-regulatory behaviour became vital as one moved down the levels of the risk-adjusted approach.
- The district development model (DDM) remained a mainstay for the successful implementation of Covid-19 vigilance measures.
The Minister concluded that “there was a need to optimise the implementation of the legislation and take appropriate measures to ensure that the risks associated with hazards such as drought, fires, floods, etc. which are negatively affecting our communities, are reduced.”
Drought relief funding
Mr Mdu Shabane, Director-General, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), outlined the Department’s drought relief funding and the provincial funding allocations. Regarding the provincial funding allocations, he said that some provinces had provided the information, while others had indicated that they did not have funding allocated to disaster relief.
He said that natural disasters continued to threaten the livelihood of the farming communities and the sector at large. It was still a challenge to have budgets allocated for disasters at the provincial and local level. The disaster management framework proposed that provincial departments must set aside a certain percentage of funding towards risk reduction. However, the country still had a long way to go to ensure that this was achieved.
Food security in South Africa
Professor Crain Soudien, Chief Executive Officer, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), presented on the state of food security in South Africa, and commented that there was a lack of data on food security. At the national level, South Africa was regarded as being food secure, but widespread hunger and malnutrition had been reported at the household level. Urban food insecurity was poorly studied. There were portions which were in a dangerous situation.
Prof Soudien highlighted the problem with SA’s food security policies. There was poor capacity to diagnose why the national policy on food and nutrition was not working. The reasons of this were weak coordination mechanisms for ensuring food security, policy environment was fragmented, and the process was encumbered by too many actors, conflictual institutions, lack of socio-economic change and social fragmentation. The HSCR had developed a brief to explore options for improved policy coordination.
The HSRC had conducted a critical review of SA policy since 1994, and had concluded that there was top-down development and that the government insufficiently involves civil society organisations.
The HSRC had identified the problems facing SA currently, the first of which was that currently there were no functional overarching food and nutrition service (FNS) institutional arrangements in South Africa responsible for coordinating FNS policy and activities.
The HSRC recommended the following steps to enhance food security:
- Translate constitutional commitment to food rights into an overarching food and nutrition security law, beginning with an update of the national policy of food security (NPFS).
- Invest in data collection tools.
- Establish national and district forums which bring together complementary expertise in metrics, monitoring and evaluation of FNS.
- Promote nutrition education to manage problems such as obesity.
- Actualise longstanding proposals for implementing the coordination of FNS policy, drawing on the example of Sukuma Sakhe in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
- Directly involve non-state actors across all stages of the policy cycle
Prof Soudien also discussed rural food security, the impact of COVID-19 on the urban poor’s food security, and said the accessibility of food at the household level remained inadequate, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Thokozani Simelane, Head: Science and Technology, HSRC, covered the policy implications identified by the Council, intervention measures, the role of the South Africa Vulnerability Assessment Committee (SAVAC), food security and nutrition survey, and the food sector production value chain.
Dr Il-Haam Petersen, Senior Research Specialist, HSRC, discussed the types of innovation activities, the barriers to innovation in the food sector, and policy questions. She emphasised the need to build resilience.
Prof Soudien concluded that the process of coordinating food and nutrition policy involved many of the difficulties that arose in the policy cycle, such as multiple actors, conflictual institutions, socio-economic change and fragmentation.
Mr S du Toit (FF+, North West) said that the Chairperson and the Minister had correctly stated that a national state of disaster was declared in February 2020 and signed in March. In November 2019, the Department had been instructed to present to the NCOP a detailed plan and a report as to how disaster relief would be provided to farmers. The Committee was supposed to have been provided with this plan and report in the first months of 2020. He had followed up with the Department on numerous occasions during this time, but his attempts had been unsuccessful. In the meantime, the Committee had been provided with a new budget, and allocations had been made according to the Division of Revenue Act (DORA). Regarding the drought relief, there were allegations that a large portion of the funds had been provided for fodder. However, it was indicated in the Department’s presentation that some of the funds allocated for fodder had been spent on transport. He had requested a breakdown of this spending when questions were posed to the Minister. He had not been provided with the information he had requested -- the response had been that it would be provided to him at a later stage. Considering the allegations of the misspent funds, the drought relief had been insufficiently provided. Additionally, a large portion of the drought relief funds supplied to provinces and municipalities had been used to drill boreholes in communities where municipalities had failed to provide water. This was the provision of a basic need to communities, and not drought relief for farmers, as the funds had been intended.
Mr Du Toit said that only recently had funds become available through the Urban Development Grants (UDGs) and the Municipal Infrastructure Grants (MIGs) to drill boreholes, and there was still a shortfall in support for the farmer. In Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality in the North West province, disaster funds had been diverted to fund a Wi-Fi project in the district. The fire brigade in the province had been unable to tend to veld fires following the five to eight years of constant drought, and what little grazing ground that existed had been burnt as a result. He made a plea to provide farmers in the area with fire skids so that they could fight fires themselves, as fire stations were unable to assist them.
Disaster relief was a long process, as it took a while to get funds to where they were needed. Money was transferred from national to province, province to districts, and districts to local municipalities or agricultural institutions. After a disaster was declared and the problem had been left for a long period of time, “the funds do not get to where they are supposed to go to.” The limited disaster funds were earmarked for upcoming and subsistence farmers, which excluded commercial farmers. Discussion on this topic had previously resulted in heated debate, and this preference for small-scale and subsistence farming did not facilitate cohesion in the agriculture sector. All farmers were affected by the drought, commercial farmers included. He made a plea to the Minister to support the commercial farmers as well.
He said that the biggest portion of the disaster funds had been transferred to fund the COVID-19 disaster that had been declared after the drought had been declared a disaster. Food security was of the utmost importance. Despite the country having received some rain, the Vaal Dam stills stood at 36% full. Additional boreholes were being drilled and municipalities were not tending to sewerage systems. Further pollution would occur, and this would contribute to a catastrophic disaster in the near future.
Mr W Aucamp (DA, Northern Cape) said that in early January, the Northern Cape had been declared a drought disaster area, as was the rest of the country in late February. Since then, the country had not received above average rainfall, the effect of which was that the severity of the drought was even higher now than it was when the drought was declared a disaster in February. He asked whether the Minister would agree that there were still areas in the country that were experiencing severe drought. He asked what could be done to get these areas declared drought disaster areas again.
He said that the figures submitted in the presentations were really disturbing. He referred to slide 12 of the CoGTA presentation, which stated there was a budget of R33.6 million to evaluate the extent of the disasters. Only R260 000 of that budget had been spent by 31 July. Essentially, there was still R33 million available to investigate the problems imposed by the drought across the country. In the presentation by the Department, a further worrying factor was the allocation of drought relief funds for each province, as it was only the Western Cape that had spent R12.4 million of the allocated funds. The Northern Cape, where R35.689 million had been allocated for fodder provision, none of the allocated funds had been spent, so why were the farmers complaining? The fact of the matter was that R35 million had been made available, but none of it was spent on fodder, as was intended.
He referred to slide 23 of the CoGTA presentation -- the “Disaster Management Centres: Compliance Status” -- and pointed to the lack of cases of compliance in the Northern Cape. This province was experiencing the biggest drought in living history, and it did not have the measures in place. What needed to be done to ensure that provinces complied with the necessary requirements to relieve the problems that they faced at the ground level? It was not enough for funds to be available, and then for them not to be spent. He was thankful for the existence of the disaster management centres, but their existence was not enough if provinces were not putting in place what was required. He concluded that there were areas in the country that needed to be reclassified as drought disaster areas, and it had to be ensured that the farmers received assistance before farms were forced to close and jobs were lost.
Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) said that he was disappointed by the contents of the presentations by CoGTA and the Department. When the Select Committee on Appropriations asked people to present, it asked them for information that would assist the Committee in making its decisions and recommendations going forward. Although the reflection on how funds had been used in the past was necessary and valuable, the Committee would have benefited from a presentation which stated what was needed -- ideas and what was planned going forward. Dr Tau had missed an opportunity to provide the Committee with details of which areas required focus going forward. Similarly, Dr Kgakatsi had failed to provide the Committee with a sense of what was being done and what needed to be done.
He had looked at the Department’s budget and noted that programme 3 dealt with food security, and program 6 with fisheries. The two presentations had left him disappointed, as he did not know what to do with the information derived from either presentation. He commended the HSRC presentations by Professor Soudien, Dr Simelani and Dr Petersen. The HSRC’s presentation had been more valuable, as the presenters had “pulled the issue together, saying exactly what the problem was -- there was no coordination and there were too many players.” CoGTA and the Department should be telling the Committee that food security was about to become one of the primary issues in South Africa. Unemployment was about to spike -- possibly up to 50% -- and the graphs on food vulnerability were about to spike as well. The last 10 years were evident on the graphs, but that there would be a spike in a post-COVID environment. He asked what was being done to fix food security.
Mr Ryder said there were real issues that needed to be addressed. The drought has already been discussed. There was a reliance on the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to monitor the borders. Regarding the maritime borders, one of the issues was that the Navy had only 84 days to do marine patrols and ensure that South African fishing reserves were safe. Evidence indicated that other countries had ships in international waters just on SA’s maritime borders, and that under the cover of darkness they cross these borders and plunder South African fishing reserves. What could be done about that?
He pointed to the lack of comment on the need to re-evaluate the SANDF and the way it spends its budget. Regarding border security, the SANDF had stated that they need a minimum of 22 companies, and that currently it could only deploy 15. This was due to financial constraints. Stock theft was the number one concern for farmers in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Free State, which were on the border with Lesotho. What was being done about the SANDF’s budget and the way it spends its money? It already had an unfunded organogram and it could not fulfil its constitutional mandate.
What is being done about the laws around Fire Protection Associations (FPAs) and the penalties and consequences for arsonists? These fires affected small-scale farms which were unprotected. The FPA rules were not strong enough to result in any consequences. Farm murders had caused the number of farmers reduce dramatically. The South African Police Service (SAPS) says it does not have the manpower and the intelligence capacity to deal with these crimes.
Mr Ryder acknowledged that land grabs were happening across the country, and this was the one of the biggest concerns of the KZN Farmers’ Association, whose members were scared to plant anything for fear of their land being grabbed. He saw the presentations by CoGTA, and the Department as missed opportunities. There was a lack of resources needed to monitor SA’s borders. The governing party was quick to talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, yet intelligence surveillance mechanisms were not currently employed. These mechanisms could be budgeted for, and the SANDF could reduce its manpower. There was a need to work smarter. Intelligence using surveillance footage would allow strategic and targeted responses to border incursions, and this would reduce costs in the long term. A short-term capital outlay would lead to a long-term operational expenditure gain. He referred to Dr Petersen’s remark that there was a high compliance cost, with so many innovations making it problematic for farmers. The fact was that SA had been slow to introduce any legislation around drones. Internationally, farmers were using drones to monitor their crops and livestock, and issues regarding agricultural management. SA had not caught up with the use of third and fourth “industrial revolution” technology. The last presentation had given him “the most food for thought,” and he had appreciated it.
Mr M Moletsane (EFF, Free State) said on slide 17 of the CoGTA presentation, he had not seen the Free State or Gauteng listed. Did that mean that these provinces did not have an allocation for drought relief? If yes, how did these provinces deal with the challenges of the drought?
Mr Y Carrim (ANC, KZN) said that the bodies dealing with the interrelated issues of food and nutrition security, climate change and disaster management, were in “an unenviable position.” These bodies included CoGTA and the National Disaster Management Centre. Part of this undesirable position was because SA had received less than half the global average rainfall, and there was a lack of global effort to deal with the climate change that had occurred in the last few years, coupled with the unprecedented level of unpredictability in the world. There were scientists saying that what the world was experiencing was not the worst of pandemics -- it was only the forerunner of what was likely to come. If the scientists were right about that, then what was in store for vulnerable countries like SA was going to be huge and difficult to know how to manage.
Obviously, with all these issues occurring, not least the COVID-19 pandemic, there were limited resources available. There were things that this Committee, with the partner committee in the National Assembly, the Standing Committee on Appropriations (SCoA), needed to focus on, because budgets were the outcome of trade-offs. He was unsure of how the issues that were being dealt with could be said to be traded-off. He suggested that the Committee call a joint meeting with the SCoA to decide what to do, because otherwise this became “a talk shop.” Presumably, the Department was doing all it could to prepare for the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), but as committees in Parliament, nothing prevented these two committees from writing to the Finance Minister to request “where these trade-offs should be done to assist the sector.” The Committee’s researchers should assist in this regard.
Mr Carrim asked if Prof Soudien would correct him if he was wrong -- that SA was regarded as a food secure country. He asked Prof Soudien and the Minister to respond to the statement that to address the various issues being discussed required discussing the nature and structure of the SA economy and the horrendous levels of inequality. When offering solutions, it was necessary to raise the crucial issue of what percentage of the income and land in this country was owned by whom? This question could not be run away from. It was the job of politicians to answer this question. There was mention that this debate had become polarised, but that was not necessary. It was the majority party’s attitude that the issue of food and nutrition security should not be polarised, as it affected everyone regardless of economic positions. What was being said was that emerging farmers were the most disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as they had been before the pandemic, so these farmers should rightly be provided with proportionally more funds and other resources. Nowhere was it suggested that prioritising of support for African and emerging farmers should preclude established farmers, as the food that these latter farmers provide serves all South Africans. The discussion was never meant to be polarised. He suggested that the Minister answer the recurring question of whether it was the Department’s policy to preclude white farmers from getting COVID-19 relief support.
A recurring complaint from civil society organisations and their representatives, and technical experts, was that they were not being actively involved in government. He asked the Minister whether the Department gave considered attention to the work done by the HSRC. How did the Department work with the HSRC, if at all? What did the Minister say to the HSRC’s comment that the Department’s decision-making was manifested in a top-down approach? In his experience, working on the Disaster Management bill, there had been ample high-quality technical inputs and inputs from civil society organisations.
Mr Z Mkiva (ANC, Eastern Cape) raised the issue of food security in rural areas, where many fields lay fallow. He asked the Department to come up with “progressive propaganda machinery” to motivate the people to till the land and ensure that they were provided with the necessary support. Regarding specific support, he mentioned repairing broken boreholes and irrigation schemes. The support could extend to the provision of seed and agricultural knowledge, such as recommending crops that would ensure that food production was sustainable in the rural and peri-urban areas.
Secondly, water desalination plants along the coastline needed to be established to equip the country to deal with climate change. He suggested that this type of project be invested in before it became too expensive. He referred to his travels to Libya and the Great Man-Made River constructed under the country’s former leader, Colonel Gaddafi, 20 years ago. This river had inspired him, and he described it as “working like a charm” for a country that was mostly desert, but due to the project had huge access to water. He pointed to the fact that SA had the longest seaboard in Southern Africa, and said that “the sooner we start investing in desalination and a man-made river, the better.” SA was struggling with water, including underground water. The piecemeal fashion whereby the country was investing in boreholes was insufficient as the water would run dry in the medium term. The sooner SA started exploiting the water in the ocean, the better, as it would be cheaper.
The Chairperson said that the issue of differentiated support to farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the topics which threatened to divide the Committee. She described the Committee as almost having engaged on party politics. She spoke of her mandate as Chairperson to lead the Committee. It had had considerable engagement on the issue, which had resulted in Members agreeing not to politicise or racialise it.
Minister Dlamini-Zuma concurred with Mr Carrim that South Africa was classified as food secure, in that there was enough food produced to feed the population – and food was even exported. However, the classification ignored who had access to the food. The fact was that many people could not afford food, and this meant that food was not accessible to all. SA was a country of paradoxes -- a food security country, but with a lot of food insecure citizens. This was the same in terms of economic wealth.
In response to the claim that CoGTA’s decision-making uses a top-down approach, Dr Mmaphaka Tau, Deputy Director General: National Disaster Management Centre, would speak to the structures in place. These structures include people on the ground. She described the process of assessing the drought as being “consultative and inclusive.” Dr Tau would further engage with this issue.
She stressed the importance of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies. The budget of the SANDF and that of the SAPS could not be spoken for. However, the Department could speak to the agricultural sector’s dependency on these bodies. She agreed with Mr Ryder on the point of working smarter and stated that to do so required working within the fourth industrial revolution. During the pandemic, the digital divide in this country had become apparent. Access to technology determined whether one could get an education, whether one could have communication from the rural areas, and whether one could sell products. This divide was huge and needed to be resolved. Working smarter was part of this.
The Minister agreed with Mr Du Toit that the long process of dispersing funds was frustrating. The length of the process had been raised with the CoGTA, but it was not dependent on CoGTA, as it worked with other departments. She agreed that the process was too long and that ways of shortening it needed to be found. The Department was unable to account for the money once it had been allocated to the provinces, because it was the provinces who submitted plans and the money was dispersed to them. She was not even aware that the provinces did not use the money. The transactions went to the National Treasury, rather than to CoGTA. Regarding the Northern Cape not having spent its drought relief funds, she said there had been pressure to release the money and it had been released. Why the funds were not spent, she could not say. She would phone the Premier of the Northern Cape to see what was going on. The legislature and relevant councils should be better able to answer some of these questions.
She responded to Mr Du Toit’s comment that he had been told by CoGTA that he would receive the information later, because when he had asked about how money was spent in a municipality, she did not have that information readily available. She referred to the three distinct, interrelated, and interdependent spheres of government. If Members wanted quick answers for provincial matters, they must source it from the legislature. If it was a local government matter, they must source it from local government to get the information faster. She could not answer whether the funds allocated for the drought relief had been used for transport, because the funds had been transferred to the province. The province would have decided, together with the districts and the farmers, on what to spend the money. It was a problem if funds intended for fodder had been used for transport -- “the people must answer the question.”
The Minister said that what needed to be done to build resilience needed to be investigated, but this required, as Mr Carrim had said, changing the structure of the economy. It did not matter how much was spoken, because if people did not have land to grow food on or to do business, they would still be food insecure.
In response to Mr Ryder’s comment on land grabs, she said that although land grabs were illegal, there was “land hunger” in this country.” This land hunger was unconstitutional. I
In response to Mr Mkiva’s proposal for repairing boreholes and establishing water desalination plants, the Minister said she thought the two were not mutually exclusive. Desalination plants were initially quite expensive, but it was something that could be done in the long term. To set up desalination plants on the Indian Ocean or the Atlantic coastlines to supply water to people in the midlands was a huge programme, and would not meet the short-term needs of people in the current drought. Boreholes were useful, in that they produced water and gave access to people in the short term. She agreed that desalination plants should be looked at in the long-term. Dr Tau and Mr Shabane would be able assist in answering Mr Aucamp’s request to get drought-affected areas to get reclassified as drought disaster areas.
She apologised to the Committee for having to leave early, and suggested that the timing of the Select Committee should be re-evaluated in order to avoid clashes with Cabinet committee meetings.
Mr Carrim asked the Minister to clear up the misconception that there existed some explicit policy to exclude farmers based on race.
The Minister said there was no such policy, and said that drought relief funds were not assigned due to race, but were given to those affected by the drought who needed it. She asked the Committee to bring forward cases where funds had been allocated based on race.
Mr Carrim asked whether in practice funds were allocated, based on race. The day before the current meeting, the Small Business Development Minister had appeared before the Committee with a presentation on who the beneficiaries of a R200 billion loan were.
The Minister said that it was the case of “those who have, want more.” If there were provinces or districts who said there were racialised policies, she encouraged them to let CoGTA know so that it could deal with it. CoGTA had not received any written complaints stating that such a policy existed. Generally, when one asks for plans and for people to apply, those who already had access to resources were more likely to benefit because they could do things quickly online. The divide was still there, even when one was focusing on relief.
National Disaster Management Centre’s response
Dr Tau said he would touch on the regulatory aspects of the questions, as the Department would deal with the sector-specific issues.
He answered Mr Du Toit’s question on the long process of dispersing funds which, as stated by the Minister, required effective intergovernmental coordination. The bottom-up value chain arrangement to deal with a disaster needed to be as agile as possible, so that decisions made at a high level could be easy. He referred to sections 56 and 57 of the Disaster Management Act, the funding of post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation. There were clearly prescribed measures that must be considered before any decisions could be made on allocating disaster funds. These sections bind officials and political leaders. The first thing that had to be considered before any money could be released was “whether any prevention or mitigation measures were taken [by the municipality or provinces], and if not, the reasons for the absence of these measures.” The Act went on to ask “whether the disaster could have been avoided or minimised had prevention and mitigation measures been taken.” It was important to consider what the legislature expected when it put together this piece of legislation when one evaluates the agility of the NDMC’s response. The legislation necessitates the NDMC to prioritise investigating whether there were any mitigation measures implemented in line with the disaster management plan. The implementation includes measures taken by sectors, by districts, by provinces, by municipalities, or by the farmers themselves. As Dr Kgakatsi mentioned, when farmers realise the land is dry and there is no rain, they should consider complying with the Conservation of Agriculture Resources Act by reducing livestock.
Dr Tau emphasised the point made by the Minister, that SA was a water scarce country. There were areas that were perennially dry. The Karoo was a hot, dry and arid area and therefore farming practices should be different in order to meet food security, and also adapt to climate change. The process was determined by compliance issues.
The issue of excluding farmers had already been covered. The process was bottom-up -- it starts with consultations and the assessment of risk, based on the prevailing conditions on the ground. The early warning committees continue to monitor and issue monthly advisory notices about drought risk at both a national and provincial level so that farmers can respond quickly.
Mr Aucamp had raised the question of allowing a national state of emergency while other areas faced drought conditions. The question was said to have been partly answered, but it was agreed that although areas of the country had received significant rainfall, various pockets still faced drought and water scarcity conditions. Was it necessary to keep a state of disaster perpetually in place to deal with the affected areas? The Act stipulated that this should not be the case, as these areas should develop adaptation measures. The state of disaster should be reinstated only when the adaptation measures showed signs of being overstretched. There could be an assessment to determine whether there was a need to declare a state of disaster in those areas. Such an assessment was informed by section 57 of the Act -- “whether there are plans to mitigate risk in those particular areas.”
Dr Tau responded to Mr Moletsane’s question about why the Free State and Gauteng were excluded from slide 17 of the presentation. The reason was that there had been no submissions from these two provinces and upon the NDMC’s follow up, Gauteng had indicated that it was facing moderate drought conditions, and that it was able to implement measures to deal with conditions that were within its budgets. The NDMC appreciated when provinces and municipalities realise that the measures that they could activate would be able to cope with the situation, and did not immediately call for disaster funding. The disaster funding was miniscule. It was a similar situation in the Free State, where the NDMC was aware of the Department of Water and Sanitation reprioritising funding to deal with the drought, particularly hydrological drought in the province.
He embraced the suggestion made by Mr Carrim about starting a joint conversation between the Select and Standing Committees. The Portfolio Committee of CoGTA had already initiated a joint portfolio committee colloquium on disaster management. Disaster management was not only about the coordination role of CoGTA, but rather the mainstreaming role played by various sectors. The colloquium would therefore help other portfolio committees to look at how disaster risk management was mainstreamed in different areas, such as water and sanitation, and human settlement issues. When one wished to build in certain areas, one needed to check that there was sufficient water. The Portfolio Committee on CoGTA was going to bring on board 12 different portfolio committees, but unfortunately this session had not yet taken place, but it was still being considered.
Lastly, on the point of the inclusion of civil society, the Minister had already indicated that the NDMC had worked well with various role players. Section 5 of the Disaster Management Act required that there was a national disaster management advisory forum which had been in place since the promulgation of the Act in 2003. It met on a quarterly basis, and the HSRC was represented on the forum by Dr Wilfred Lunga. The Minister met the week before the meeting with representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and an invitation had been extended to the UNDP to serve on the advisory forum. Both governmental and non-governmental role players were consistently brought into the forum to ensure that these entities had a fair input into the discourse of disaster management.
Mr Shabane said most of the questions related to the drought had been answered by the Minister and Dr Tau. Similarly, the question of access to drought relief funds had also been answered.
There was a strong working relationship between the Department and civil society organisations. There was a multi-stakeholder platform, where various policy areas were discussed. Two policy dialogues had been held in the recent past, which were attended by the Minister and Deputy Minister. Further policy dialogues that were jointly facilitated by the Department and civil society organisations were set to continue. In addition, there were joint projects between the Department and civil society around the implementation of settlements of claims for labour tenants. Another joint project was the monitoring of COVID-19 food security intervention that had been launched by the Minister in April. This had entailed assisting approximately 15 000 small-holder farmers in the last four months. In excess of R600 million had been allocated to these farmers to support them due to the challenges of the high level of food insecurity at the household level.
Currently, the Department was in serious discussions with the National Treasury and the Presidency about the additional allocation of the Presidential employment stimulus, which would target subsistence farmers who were affected by COVID-19, and households affected by escalating food prices. The Presidential employment stimulus of R1 billion had been set aside to support subsistence farmers in urban and rural areas. This project was in collaboration with civil society organisations and the Department of Agriculture. The technical level had been completed and the project was awaiting approval through the regular budget process from the National Treasury.
The Department was working on providing R70 million from the Solidarity Fund for subsistence farmers, with a focus on communal areas. The aim was to provide these farmers with input vouchers, particularly those farmers whose fields were lying fallow, as mentioned by Mr Mkiva. The Department was planning to work with the National House of Traditional Leaders, the National House, the District Houses, and the Department of CoGTA, to coordinate the implementation of this project.
The Department was working with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) to investigate strategies to mitigate the risk of disaster in the face of climate change. This work extended to the Department of Science and Innovation. Mr Soudien had already mentioned the food security study on which the HSRC and the Department were collaborating. This study would go a long way to address the policy gaps identified by the HRSC.
He apologised that the Department had not met the expectations of the Committee Members, and commented that the presentation had been limited to what had been required in line with the letter the Department had received from the Committee secretary.
Human Science Research Council’s response
Mr Soudien said no questions had been posed to the HSRC, but he welcomed any questions or further issues that the Committee had.
Mr Carrim said he had asked the HSRC a direct question about the broader economic and social structures impacting on food security in SA.
Mr Soudien said that the technical definition of food security, as employed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, was a straight calculation about the quantity of food that was produced in the country, in relation to the population. This equation resulted in the notion, as the Minister had said, that technically SA was food secure. The analysis made by Mr Carrim was pertinent, as the distribution of the food was the issue. The economic structures of the country underlie how food is made available and is distributed amongst the population. This was a global issue and needed to be understood in a global context.
The point on coordination should be repeated, due to the way that the conversation between CoGTA and the DALRRD had gone. One could easily do better on this front, and the question of how coordination could be improved needed attention. The critical issue was how information was managed between government departments and in the processes of decision making, and by paying attention to the policy framework and ensuring that it was implemented more effectively. It was a question of governance and information. Evaluating how one can do better with what one had needed to be considered before considering structural challenges.
Mr Shabane said that he omitted the development of the agriculture and agro-processing master plan. The Department was working on the master plan with social partners in agribusiness, commercial banks, farmers’ associations, commodity organisations and civil society. The master plan sought to address food security, amongst other challenges. Land had been identified in the former homelands, such as the land to which Mr Mkiva had referred, and the eight million hectares of land reform farms that the Department had acquired over the last 25 years. The Department was looking at fixing the support systems that went with the land reform farms to ensure productivity. This may include providing dipping tanks and feed lot facilitates. The Department was looking at localising production in the areas in which people live. This included building production and processing facilities in the areas where there was the greatest potential, and near to rural communities. This plan was to counteract the concentration of food in the major centres, to areas where there was high concentration of poverty. The Department would be pleased to present this plan to the Committee. It was being presented to the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on land and agriculture, and after it was processed by the IMC it was hoped that it would go to the Cabinet Committee, and ultimately to the Cabinet to receive the go-ahead. It was re-emphasised that this plan included non-governmental partners who would invest in its implementation.
Mr Mkiva said that he appreciated Mr Shabane’s response, describing it as being “revolutionary and robust,” and what the Committee had been expecting. He looked forward to the master plan’s implementation, as it would be the first time there would be serious engagement, looking at the issues that the Committee had raised over the years. He advised the Department to bring on board the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) when it worked with the National House of Traditional Leaders, as it was on the ground all the time on these matters. He promised to interact with the office of the DG and ensure that Contralesa was engaged with, and that the roll-out and implementation did not have any hiccups or obstacles.
Regarding desalination, although it was a water affairs issue, there needed to be coordination with the Department of Agriculture, as the agricultural sector relied heavily on water. He asked the DG or a member of his team whether this initiative would be initiated.
Mr Du Toit said the policy mentioned by Mr Carrim was not a policy of exclusion, but was about the resolutions and the way in which they were worded. If one included emerging farmers and subsistence farmers and not other farmers, then by default these other farmers were excluded. It was of grave concern that the Minister and the Department had alluded to the fact that once funds were allocated, there was no follow up to inquire into the use of the funds. This allowed for corruption, underspending, and spending on the wrong projects. Mr Shabane had said that farmers needed to reduce their herds due to the drought, but this was already being done. The per capita sheep to hectare farming in KZN compared to the Karoo was not the same. Farmers could not reduce their herds any further, as it took years to build up a core breeding herd. The drought support was needed for the survival of these farm units. There was documentation and video evidence of the conditions on these farms. Animals were dying next to dry water troughs. Farmers needed fodder and financial support to alleviate these farming units.
Mr Ryder, in response to the Department, said that this was the Select Committee on Appropriations, not the Committee on Agriculture. The Department should have said what it intended to do, what its track record was, and what money it needed. The Committee looks at where money needs to be spent. He suggested that the Committee secretary be specific when drafting the memo to departments about the insights that the Committee expected from departments, such as their spending of money that they receive and how they would like the Committee to influence money allocated in the future. What the Committee needed to hear was where the money was going, and where it should be going. This was not a committee that oversees the work of other committees -- it was a committee which oversees the allocation of budgets.
The Chairperson agreed that the Committee was responsible for appropriating budgets to departments. The meeting was the result of agreed upon solutions which the Department of Agriculture should be part of. This meeting was the start of things. The Committee’s mandate was to look at how funds were being spent, whether the recipients of funds were sticking to the plans, and the impact of the funds that had been appropriated.
Mr Carrim agreed with the Chairperson and Mr Ryder, and agreed with Mr Du Toit that the effect of the drought was horrific in rural areas. If Mr Du Toit had examples where the practice was discriminatory, he must submit it to the relevant department and copy this to the Committee’s Members. If there were examples of departments not spending the money allocated to them for disaster management relief, this should be submitted to the Chairperson and to the Chairperson of the relevant committee in the province. When the Committee met, it should draw in the relevant committees.
Mr Aucamp referred to Dr Tau’s response on the renewal of the drought disaster status, and said that in February the whole of the country was declared a drought disaster area, and the country had not received above average rainfall in most of those areas. The decision not to extent the drought disaster status had failed to consider scientific information. Grazing had been extremely depleted, and it was of utmost importance to quickly declare a state of disaster in certain areas of the Northern Cape, the Karoo, the Kalahari and the Free State.
The Chairperson said that declaring a state of disaster was not the mandate of the Committee. She suggested that Mr Aucamp lobby his caucus to make the issue of declaring certain areas drought disaster areas as a matter for discussion in the Select Committee on Agriculture. She requested that the representative from the National Treasury comment on the discussion.
Mr Misaveni Ngobeni, Director: DWS and COGTA, National Treasury, agreed with the Committee Members about the need to strengthen the monitoring of the use of funds that were allocated for disaster relief. From 2016 onwards, R6.4 billion had been allocated to drought relief projects, yet there was no substantial information about how the funds were used and what items had been procured. However, it was safe to say that most of it had gone to the DWS’s interventions around boreholes. The Treasury accepted the gaps around strong monitoring aspects. He assured the Members that the Treasury had heard the complaints, and would “head back to the drawing board” to try in fix these issues. Given the severity of the disaster, there needed to be value for money regarding the allocations that had been made.
Adoption of Committee report
The Chairperson said there were two sets of minutes and the Report on the submission of the Financial and Fiscal Commission on the Division of Revenue that were outstanding, and needed to be adopted.
Mr Mkiva moved the adoption of the Report, and Mr Ryder seconded.
The meeting was adjourned.
- National Treasury: DALRRD Food Security Initiatives
- DALRRD: Provincial Disaster Management & Provincial Drought Relief
- DST: State of Food Security In South Africa
- COGTA: National Disaster Management Centre
- HSRC on food security
- DALRRD on Disaster management and drought relief programmes
- COGTA - Disaster Management Centre Presentation
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