Minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development Thoko Didiza has slammed reports that the allocation of the disaster fund relief to mitigate the effects of the covid-19 crisis on small-scale farmers is racially and politically biased.
In a statement released on Monday, agricultural union Transvaalse Landbou-unie (TLU SA) made scathing claims against the motivation behind the department’s efforts to give relief to South African farmers and questioned the selection process for the funding.
The TLU SA further accused the minister of “spreading blatant lies” when she says that the objective of the R1,2 billion in support to small-scale farmers is to counter the effect of the coronavirus and to ensure sustainable food production.
They alleged that the money is an “expensive voter-buying project” as part of a larger political agenda by the African National Congress.
In an interview on SABC News this morning, TLU SA president Louis Meintjes repeated the allegations, saying that those who have qualified for the support are emerging farmers who are believed to be “ANC affiliates and have made no contribution to food security”.
Didiza on Sunday gave feedback on the allocation of relief from the covid-19 agricultural disaster fund. The department approved around 15 000 applications out of 55 000. The value of R500 million in inputs support will be given to smallholder and communal farmers.
READ MORE: Covid-19 relief 15 036 small-scale farmers made the cut
“Minister Didiza’s declaration that the financial support must ensure food production is a blatant lie,” says Meintjes.
“The minister should be honest and admit that the department is merely supporting subsistence farmers who are predominantly ANC supporters. If the goal is to ensure food production for the country, her department should assist commercial farmers – who are effectively responsible for South Africa’s food security – as well,” Meintjies says.
In an interview with Morning Live’s Leanne Manas, Didiza this morning denied the allegations.
She clarified that the department had given clear and concise requirements for the application of funding.
Covid-19 has seen the agricultural sector face major disruptions and has had a devasting impact on small-scale farmers especially, Didiza said.
“When we made the announcement of the intervention we did specifically say we are targeting small farmers with a turnover annually of between R20 000 and a million rand. There was no race attached to it. Any farmer who fit that category could have applied,” Didiza said.
She emphasised that the department has supported all farmers, including the commercial sector.
“We have also put a relief of R100 million in the Land Bank so it can assist those commercial farmers who have loans with the Land Bank to cushion them,” she said.
She added that the department has continuously shown their support for farmers since the beginning of the national lockdown. “The farming sector was still allowed to operate, farmers were farming, those who were harvesting were harvesting during this period (of level 5 lockdown). And time and time again where farmers were faced with problems with the SAPS (South African Police Service) I have intervened.”
She said that the department was open to engage with all role players in the agricultural sector.
“For me farmers are farmers, it is those who are able to produce for the country at a household and a national level. It might be at a small scale, it might be at a commercial level. But all farmers produce for the table. For us even those farmers who produce at a household level are very important, because they deal with the vulnerabilities of food insecurity in our country.”