Drought will leave thousands without jobs – Annette Steyn

Immediate assistance from govt is needed to help SA cope during water crisis, says DA

Government’s delayed national drought assistance is destroying jobs

1 December 2015

Government's delay to declare more provinces affected by the drought as disaster areas is irresponsible and to the detriment of local communities. Recent DA oversight visits have revealed that Gauteng, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape are busy working on being declared drought zones in order to receive national assistance that will help save dying crops, livestock and countless jobs. However they are struggling with the enormous task at hand whilst the effects of the drought ravage our agricultural communities and run the risk of destroying thousands of livelihoods.

As Parliament is soon to be in recess, we will write to the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Baleka Mbete, requesting that she establish an ad hoc committee in terms of Rule 214(1) of the NA Rules as requested earlier this month as is consistent with the 14-day rule. Parliament needs to hear the feedback from the interministerial task team specifically charged to deal with drought alleviation urgently and this cannot wait for the festive season to pass. The country needs to know the progress the IMC has made in assessing the effects on the drought particularly on the livelihoods of so many South Africans and solutions to the drought crisis.

For instance, in the rooibos producing areas of the Northern Cape, approximately 3 000 permanent workers and 3 000 seasonal workers are facing imminent unemployment because rooibos crops have  been severely damaged by the drought. The province produces 15 000 tons a year on average and only harvested 11 500 tons in 2014 season, all reports show that the 2015 season will show a huge decline in the harvest and farm owners will eventually have to shed jobs.

This committee must summon before it the departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Water and Sanitation; Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Rural Development and Land Reform; as well the Department of Finance to brief it on the extent of the drought, provincial funding requests and immediate action steps being taken. The purpose of the committee would be to make recommendations towards mitigating the damage this drought is inflicting on our communities.

Media reports from the Free State have revealed four towns are without water and the Caledon river – a main water source for the province - has run dry. This is bound to have adverse effects on food security and the overall quality of life of South Africans in rural farming communities who rely on water sources for their own subsistence. Of equal concern is that this will also affect commercial farmers who are likely to downscale and in so doing lay off employees as has been the case in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

The DA will not rest until responds and acts in a manner that alleviate the effects of the and protect the poorest households from starvation and unemployment.

Issued by Annette Steyn, Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, DA, 1 December 2015