“Good riddance” is what Free State farmers have to say following a recent political shake-up that saw Sam Mashinini being fired as the MEC for police, roads and transport.
The cabinet reshuffle by the province’s premier, Sisi Ntombela, happened last week when she announced that the changes were to ensure the province fulfils its mandate of service delivery.
Mashinini’s axing is reported to be on the back of investigations into the lack of road service delivery in the province.
The reshuffle further saw Mashinini being replaced with William Bulwane, who had previously led the portfolio of agriculture and rural development in the Free State. Thembeni Nxangisa, who had been the co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC, replaced Bulwane as the new MEC for agriculture in the province.
Mashinini failed farmers
Free State farmers say they welcome the “long-overdue” changes.
The say little has been done about the dire state of the province’s road infrastructure, despite countless attempts to communicate with Mashinini’s office. It has been an uphill battle to get the roads fixed which they use on a daily basis for the transportation of agricultural goods.
“Free State roads are in a very bad condition. Here are roads that are still closed for road works, and we can’t drive our trucks carrying livestock or produce,” Hannetjie Human, a commercial livestock farmer in the province tells Food For Mzansi.
“Then we have to drive distances of between 30 and 40km further with our cattle on the trucks,” Human explains.
Earlier this year, farmers, taxi drivers and other road users handed in a petition with more than 2 000 signatures to the office of Mashinini. They requested that urgent repairs be made to the dilapidated roads.
According to Human, they made an appointment with Mashinini, who had confirmed that he would receive their petition handover.
“However, the day everyone arrived, MEC Mashinini was nowhere to be found. To this day, we still don’t know where he was,” Human explains.
“Can you imagine? We drove more than 300km to meet with him and he didn’t show up.”
Human adds that Bulwane stood in for Mashinini that day and received disgruntled farmers and their signed petition.
“I think that William will do better in this portfolio. That day he met with us, he listened even though it was not his department. He did what he could,” she says.
FSA welcomes Bulwane
Under the leadership of Mashinini, the Free State department of police, roads and transport has been accused of wasteful expenditure.
The hope of organised agriculture is now that Bulwane will do a better job at the steering wheel of this troubled portfolio.
Jack Armour, Free State Agriculture (FSA) commercial manager, tells Food For Mzansi, “We have had a good working relationship with MEC Bulwane and are glad that we can pick up the phone to call him if we have problems in police, roads and transport.”
Meanwhile premier Ntombela has thanked Mashinini for his contribution in his previous responsibility and wished him well in his future endeavours.
“In the current social and economic development landscape, ours remains a concerted fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality in our quest to build the Free State we want,” Ntombela said.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.