A written request by the Democratic Alliance (DA), to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Agriculture and Rural Development portfolio committee Chairperson, Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha, seeking an urgent briefing on the current Brucellosis outbreak in Northern KZN has been met with deafening silence.
The DA’s correspondence also included a request that portfolio committee members be updated on a report around the state of biosecurity in KZN, promised by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) which remains outstanding.
It is now 48 hours since the DA wrote to Chairperson Sibhidla-Sapetha. The failure to respond or acknowledge our request is yet another indication that this portfolio committee only exists to tick boxes. This is further supported by the failure to reconvene a meeting which was supposed to be held in August in order for resolutions on rural safety to be passed.
The impact of the Brucellosis bacteria on our province cannot be under-estimated. The disease causes abortion, infertility, reduced milk production and weak joints in both livestock and humans has seen a dramatic increase this year. Of particular concern is DARD’s recent admission on a radio station that they have not handled the monitoring and prevention of this disease in a proper manner.
Since the start of the 6th administration, the DA has ensured that biosecurity has featured on the agenda of KZN’s Agriculture portfolio committee after many years of substandard oversight. If the portfolio committee had done its work diligently in the past, many of the outbreaks that our province has experienced over the last 18 months – which include Rabies, Anthrax, Fall Armyworm and Foot and Mouth disease – could have been avoided.
What is needed is a proper plan and strategy to address a wide range of biosecurity related risks and threats, together with the political and administrative will to implement such a plan. Extension officers and state vets must form an integral part of this plan with sufficient support from political and administrative leadership.
The DA has now submitted parliamentary questions directly to MEC Sithole-Moloi, bypassing the slow and ineffective portfolio committee. We are also engaging with our national assembly representatives on the matter. We expect MEC Sithole-Moloi to respond to us with the urgency that this matter deserves.