Question NW3998 to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

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20 December 2023 - NW3998

Profile picture: Masipa, Mr NP

Masipa, Mr NP to ask the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

What measures has she put in place to improve the situation of the Animal Health Directorate that has to date failed livestock farmers, which is also reflected by the Ministerial Task Team’s report which highlighted numerous issues?


The Animal Health Directorate has not failed livestock farmers. The mandate of the Directorate is “to provide for the control of animal diseases and parasites, for measures to promote animal health, and for matters connected therewith”.

To this end, the Department has regulations and guidelines for the prevention of entry as well as the control of diseases. The sub-directorates of Epidemiology and Disease Control are constantly monitoring laboratory results which are analyzed, and any suspicion of infection is brought to the attention of the Director and the Chief Veterinary Officer. This is followed up by instructions to the provinces on how to handle the suspicion including control measures to apply. Due to varying resources in the provinces, these are applied differently in each province, with varying success.

One of the high-risk activities that the Department is managing is research conducted using pathogens that could be detrimental to the health status of the country. Ironically this same risk mitigation is found to be unnecessary by the Ministerial Task Team’s report.

The findings of the Ministerial Task Team’s report were all catered for in the Veterinary Strategy that was signed in March 2016. The Strategy has 5 pillars, one of which is to strengthen competencies for animal health, all of which are being implemented and facilitated by Operation Phakisa, at differing rates depending on the availability of resources.

Section 11 of the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act No. 35 of 1984) places the responsibility of preventing the introduction of diseases on owners. The Department has several biosecurity guidelines for different farming practices which include surveillance, some of which is at the owner’s expense and some which the Government pays for. However, many farms do not implement these measures due to the expenses associated with them. The lack of biosecurity on farms has been demonstrated to contribute significantly to the introduction and further spread of diseases into and between farms.

Climate change and international trade in animals and animal products have also led to increased occurrence of animal diseases. Maintaining a biosecure environment is thus always a moving target and this is not unique to animal and animal products.

In the past 5 years, South Africa successfully eradicated 3 separate outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreaks in the country, but most importantly, retained trade with neighboring countries. The reason neighboring countries could still accept poultry products from South Africa, at the height of a trade-sensitive disease outbreak, was because of the confidence they have in the Veterinary Services of South Africa, which is brought by its sound technical expertise in the field.

South Africa also reported cases of African Swine Fever outbreaks and equally retained trade with most neighboring countries.

Since 2019, South Africa has not had a free status for Foot and Mouth Disease, and yet trade of livestock, beef, and wool continues; this again is due to the confidence in the South African Veterinary Services’ globally. Recently the Department facilitated the opening of beef exports to China and Saudi Arabia, and a few other countries are in the pipeline, such as Iraq.

Just these three points highlight the support given to the farming communities and how the Department is not failing its livestock farmers.

While some control measures are not solely the responsibility of the Department, classic examples of challenges illustrating plain disregard of the law are indiscriminate movements of cattle even though the Minister had placed restrictions on the movements of livestock at the start of the North West outbreak, and the legal challenges lodged against the Department by the same livestock farmers the Department was trying to protect.


As the report recommends, Veterinary Services is strengthening its collaboration with industries; there are already two recent success stories from this collaboration viz. the opening of beef markets for China and Saudi Arabia. The containment of Foot and Mouth Disease is another success story that is due to these collaborative efforts.

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