Minister van Rensburg's Address on Rural Development and Agriculture
Chairperson, Minister Nkwinti, Minister Joemat-Pettersson, members of the NCOP: Many people in South Africa think our country's history ended after our first democratic election in 1994. But that is not true. We have already created another 18 years of history. As politicians and government officials we need to ask ourselves: What was my contribution to our post-1994 history? Have I contributed to a better or a worse South Africa?
Chair: The gap between rich and poor is increasing each year in South Africa. Our economy is growing, but it is growing without creating new jobs. In South Africa, 50% of people between the age of 18 and 25 are unemployed. This is truly a social crisis. This crisis holds the potential to destroy all that has been achieved in 1994.
Chair, and while there is a scarcity of opportunities in general in South Africa, the problem is focused in our rural areas. Opportunities in South Africa are concentrated in our cities. Our small towns and villages are often dying a slow death. Even food is more expensive in our rural villages than it is in the large metros.
South Africa needs a more equal society. But Chair, we cannot achieve that by simply dividing what we have between everyone. The cake is too small and we will not succeed. No. We need to grow our economy in order to create new wealth for our people.
Chair, it is estimated that if the Western Cape Province can grow its agricultural exports with 5%, we will create 23 000 new jobs. I am departing for the Yantai International Wine Festival in China in the near future. With me will be new farmers whom my department is supporting to access international markets.
Chair, I am concerned about the unintended negative consequences of the PLAS programme. New farmers are complaining to me that they cannot access financing in order to progress on their PLAS farms.
Chair, I believe that beneficiaries should receive ownership of land. This will allow them access to private sector financing. It would also make it easier to implement support programmes from the Department of Agriculture.
We can sell these farms at a 1% interest rate to beneficiaries with government financing. Then, with cart and transport in hand, they will be motivated to improve and invest with private sector financing. There are new farmers out there who want to use the opportunities government has given them to become independent commercial producers. They have the ability to employ people and contribute to our economy. It is ironic that the same government giving the opportunity is now also the government holding the beneficiary back.
Chair, I want to ask for better coordination between the support offered by the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs on the one hand and the Provincial Departments of Agriculture on the other hand. The current PLAS arrangement, of government leasing land to beneficiaries, is affecting our ability to support these beneficiaries with the Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) due to conflicting ownership requirements. The lease periods are often too short in order for agriculture to finance infrastructure support.
Dankie Minister Nkwinti vir die geld wat u beskikbaar stel vir landelike ontwikkelingsprojekte. Dankie ook vir u departement se amptenare op grondvlak. Hulle werk saam met my departement en ons beloof om hard te werk om suksesverhale te skep. Ons sal ook seker maak dat die geld wat u, en ander departemente, verskaf, op 'n eerlike en doelgerigte wyse aangewend word.
Minister Nkwinti, te veel herstruktureering en nuwe planne maak dit moeilik, en soms onmoontlik, vir provinsiale departemente en plaaslike regerings om aan te pas. Ons benodig kontinuïteit en gesamentlike beplanning binne die drie sfere van regering.
Dankie dat jy altyd bereid is om te luister en te help.
The ostrich industry is still not able to export after a devastating avian influenza epidemic struck it 15 months ago. I want to thank the minister for her assistance and the R50 million she made available for compensation money. More than 40 000 ostriches had to be culled and were compensated for. But this money and effort will be wasted if we cannot get our export markets open again. More than 20 000 job opportunities will be lost if we cannot export ostrich products. What is needed now is the political will to cross this final hurdle. We need to engage the EU on this matter. Our officials should make an effort to resolve the final issues preventing exports from leaving South Africa.
Minister, as regering moet ons die klippe uit die pad rol vir ons boere. Ons moenie die hekkies al hoe hoër en hoër maak nie.
Chair, Foot and Mouth Disease is still preventing red meat exports from South Africa. This issue must be resolved with urgency, and the department must take urgent steps to maintain the systems, specifically designed to prevent this disease from entering South Africa and infecting our livestock.
Chair, we should also be concerned about the long-term sustainability of the agricultural sector in South Africa. Without research, we will lose ground until we are not able to adapt to a changing environment, both locally but also internationally. We need new cultivars which are drought- and disease-resistant. We need new farming techniques which will allow us to provide more crops with less input costs. We need new technology to assist us with water management. I am therefore concerned about the state of the National Agricultural Research and Development Strategy which was launched back in 2008 but is still not being implemented.
Chair, agriculture has a huge responsibility regarding the empowerment of our previously disadvantaged communities. Many different models of assistance have been tried, with results varying from dismal to very successful. We need better coordination between the efforts from Rural Development and Land Reform on the one hand and Agriculture on the other hand.
Chair, the Western Cape is pioneering an approach to land reform which makes the private sector an integral partner. With our Commodity Approach, government is partnering with the various commodity organisations to create teams of expertise which identifies and supports empowerment projects.
Chair, I want to assure both the ministers of the Western Cape's support regarding their respective National Performance Outcomes. The Western Cape will not let you down, and we will work together with you in order to improve the opportunities offered to our people.