Despite KwaZulu-Natal’s farmers’ ongoing suffering at the hands of brazen criminals, the province’s MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi has dismissed a request by the Democratic Alliance (DA) for an urgent portfolio committee meeting to discuss rural safety and stock theft.
To add insult to injury, she has also claimed that the issues fall solely within the province’s Department of Community Safety and Liaison.
The purpose of the DA’s call was also so that the implementation of the KZN Rural Safety Strategy – due to have been implemented as far back as 2010 – could be discussed.
This is not the first time that the MEC has reneged on her duties and treated KZN’s agricultural community with disdain. She also failed to respond to the 2018 crime statistics, which indicated an increasing number of safety-related issues. This too on the basis that it is not her Department’s responsibility to ensure the safety of rural communities, farmers and farm workers.
The snub comes as yet another KZN small-scale farmer from Imbali yesterday suffered the devastating experience of finding eight of his cattle slaughtered after they wandered off during a storm. This cruel act could have and should been avoided and the DA extends its sincere condolences to Mr Mbatha.
What the MEC fails to realise is that without an agricultural sector in the province, she does not have a job. Accountability, oversight and alignment of government functions is also a core mandate of the DARD. The failure to proactively pursue the issue of rural safety is an indictment against both the MEC and her embattled Department. This ‘silo’ approach to governance and accountability by successive ANC administrations is one of the key issues behind government’s failure to deliver comprehensive services and action.
In contrast, the DA’s alternative aims to reform the management of SAPS and support grass roots safety by building capacity through financial and institutional support in rural areas. In the DA-run Western Cape the Department of Agriculture is proactively working with other Departments and SAPS to increase the safety of rural communities, farmers and farm workers. Our rural safety plan has a multi-sectoral cross cutting approach that aims to bring all stakeholders together in the pursuit of safer rural areas and farming communities.
The time has come to change the broken systems of government and reform outdated strategies and policies. The DA in KZN is committed to providing solutions and holding the ‘doorstops’ of progress accountable. The safety of our rural communities, farmers and farm workers depends on it.