Govt not prepared to deal with drought crisis - Annette Steyn

Lack of leadership and urgency is driving the country into an imminent doom, says DA

Disaster Management suggests government is unprepared to deal with drought crisis

10 February 2016

The Democratic Alliance (DA) today conducted an oversight visit to the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) in Pretoria to review their drought preparations, in light of government’s denialist claims that there is no national disaster.

It was clear from our visit that the NDMC is not getting the necessary information it needs from the various stakeholders, chief among them the provinces. This means that some provinces, while being severely drought-stricken, are precluded from getting the necessary aid they need to the detriment of thousands of people and their livelihoods.

As such the DA once again calls on the government to intervene where municipalities and provinces refuse to do so and declare the ensuing drought a national crisis. In addition to this, the DA will:

Write to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to ensure a better funded management centre with greater responsibility for the management of the flow of information from provinces.

Request that the minister of COGTA give a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on the effects of the drought per district municipality, and provide feedback on how municipalities are dealing with these effects.

Write to the Portfolio Chairperson of Agriculture to summon the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, to report on South Africa’s preparedness for the drought and give feedback on the steps taken to deal with the state and effects of the drought in each province.

Reiterate our call on the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to establish an ad-hoc committee on the drought crisis.

The failings of government’s disaster management mechanisms are perturbing, and mean that farmers and communities, including the poor who subsist will continue to struggle in dealing with the drought, face increasing food and water insecurity.

The agricultural sector is taking a knock and this will cause a domino effect of joblessness and increasing financial discomfort on consumers.

The NDMC was created in terms of Section 8 of the National Disaster Management Act, Act No 57 of 2002, with the objective of providing an integrated and coordinated system for disaster management in South Africa. Reporting to the NDMC are both local and national authorities, who ought to be relaying integral information about the impact of the drought in their respective locals; this has not been happening as nominated senior representatives have been consistently uncooperative and non-participating, sending juniors in their stead.

The lack of collaboration from other government departments mandated to provide liaison and coordinate their relief activities through the NDMC, coupled with its underfunding and understaffing has rendered the centre ineffective and incapacitated for its task.  

As the government continues in their denial despite it being the worst drought on record for 112 years, farmers continue to lose livestock, food prices continue to soar and the poor are further marginalised from access to basic resources.

The government’s detachment from reality was further exposed when Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Bheki Cele remarked that the late rains offer a solution to the situation, further reaffirming that South Africa will not be declaring the drought a national disaster, despite reports by his department that the rains are too late.

Other southern African countries, including Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Namibia have prioritised drought relief efforts by centralising relief efforts at a national level, as opposed to the fragmented regional and provincial extemporaneous approach the South African government has elected.

The lack of both leadership and urgency by government is driving the country into an imminent doom, unless President Zuma assumes responsibility for drought relief in his upcoming SONA.

The DA will persist in holding the government accountable in dealing with this disaster.

Issued by Annette Steyn, DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, 10 February 2016