The department of agriculture, land reform and rural development says it will “find a better way to fast-track the process” to resolve grievances from three young farmers who still have not received their prizes – more than a year they were honoured in the YAFF Awards.
This after three agriculturalists, Wayne Mansfield from the Western Cape, Siphesihle Kwetana from the Eastern Cape and Edward Kgarose from Limpopo turned to Food For Mzansi for help, saying that they were “disillusioned and cheated” by the 2019 Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Awards.
Thirteen months after the glitzy awards function, they still have not received their cash prizes ranging from R100 000 for Kwetana and Kgarose to R200 000 for Mansfield.
Reggie Ngcobo, spokesman for Thoko Didiza, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, says, “The department has since resorted to buying the winners agricultural inputs or equipment equivalent to their prize money. The process took longer than anticipated due to most of the suppliers identified by the winners not meeting the requirements.”
Treasury policy shift impacts payouts
Ngcobo says it was regrettable that some of the winners have not received their prize money. He says, “The department has communicated reasons for the delay to all the winners who have not yet received their prizes. At the time of the payment of the prize money to the winners, there was a policy shift from national treasury in terms of paying of awards in monetary terms.”
However Kwetana (25) finds it rather upsetting that the terms of engagement changed after she was announced as a YAFF winner. “My question is, why did the department treat me differently? The rest of the winners got their money and I’m still waiting. It’s the same awards, but the rules changed for me.”
Mansfield says, “I’ve already decided that I want nothing to do with the money. I know the money is owed to me, but seriously how long must I still wait? In farming you have to be quick. If I need fertilizer, I need it now. I can’t wait for two months because then it will be too late. My business can only be successful if I do things on time.”
Covid-19 budget cuts
Meanwhile, during a mini-plenary session of the national assembly earlier this week, Didiza confirms the covid-19 pandemic has compelled government to rethink and readjust budget allocations for competing needs during this period.
Subsequent to finance minister Tito Mboweni’s February 2020 budget vote, an allocation of R16.8 billion to the agricultural department was re-adjusted to R14.4 billion as a result of the pandemic – a reduction of just under 2.4 billion.
The minister confirms that the greatest portion of the cuts (equaling R1.89 billion) was in programmes that deliver on restitution, food security and land redistribution. “These programmes are core to achieving outcomes in food security and achieving economic transformation priority through redress and equitable access to producer support.”