Last-minute changes were made to Mzansi’s Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP) yesterday but the signing of the document is set to go ahead this week. This, after one of the country’s key agricultural stakeholders objected when it learned of agri minister Thoko Didiza’s intention to sign the long-awaited plan this week.
In a worded statement released by Afasa at the weekend, its president, AJ Mthembu flagged several issues its leadership had with the AAMP document. Mthembu said that they were shocked to learn of the signing ceremony being scheduled for Thursday, 12 May, and added that Afasa would not participate if its latest contributions were not included by then.
In an interview with Food For Mzansi, Prof. Mzukisi Qobo, head of the Wits School of Governance and tasked to facilitate the drafting of the AAMP, confirmed that some of Afasa’s latest contributions were incorporated. He added that a revised document was sent to Afasa on Monday morning (9 May 2022).
“We have incorporated some of the things that Afasa has raised concerns about, and we have given them an amended document this morning for their consideration. We hope to engage with them before Thursday.”
According to Qobo, views and comments from across the sector were incorporated into the master plan as, during the extensive drafting process, organisations and institutions in both the public and private sectors were consulted.
He said that the signing of the plan on Thursday was critical. “It has been three years now since we have been drafting this document and, unfortunately, we [can’t] really afford to delay it any further or add just about anything that [anyone] says.”
Signing will go ahead
Although the department and Afasa have different versions of communications between the organisation and government, representatives of both entities confirmed that the signing will in all likelihood go ahead.
In his statement released on Sunday, Mthembu said that the organisation felt compelled to engage with the minister after they had received the invitation to the signing of the AAMP. He felt that the invitation was sent despite senior Afasa representatives having met with Didiza last week to raise their dissatisfaction with the AAMP document.
Departmental spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo told Food For Mzansi in response that the farmer organisation did not communicate with the department regarding their concerns. “The AAMP was given to the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), our entity, to manage and NAMC appointed the professor. There is no way [Afasa] would have contacted the department. They would have contacted the convenor who has convened them since 2019.”
The department did add that it would meet with Afasa this week to listen to their concerns.
But Ngcobo told Food For Mzansi he didn’t foresee anything stopping the signing of the AAMP on Thursday. Qobo also confirmed that this was in accordance with agreements in previous meetings.
“Unfortunately we can’t delay this process any longer as we are eager to move forward to the second stage of the plan, which is implementation,” Qobo said. “Therefore, the signing of the master plan is very critical in solving the imbalances in the sector.”
The facilitators of this historical signing said that they wanted the adoption of this document to coincide with the minister’s budget vote, so that the plan can be accommodated in the budget of the department.
Didiza is scheduled to deliver the budget vote in Parliament on the same day.
What were Afasa’s concerns?
According to Afasa, the document was not “explicit” about a number of issues that needed to be stated clearly. These included:
- aggressive land reform and issuing of title deeds to beneficiaries of PLAS farms;
- the transfer of irrigation water rights to black farmers, as well as the verification and validation processes of water licences throughout the country, especially in catchment areas;
- clear targets on the participation of black farmers across the agricultural value chain;
- the initial proposed development schemes through which to operationalise the AAMP;
- how targets were going to be financed “as the proposed blended finance has not worked since its introduction three years ago”.
Food For Mzansi will continue to follow the story as it unfolds.
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