The department of agriculture, land reform and rural development vows to clamp down on farmers found guilty of trading their presidential employment stimulus initiative (PESI) vouchers for money. This is according to Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for minister Thoko Didiza.
Last year, more than 75 000 subsistence farmers were invited by government to apply for farming input vouchers which could be used at vendors selected by the department.
Now, the support vouchers, ranging in value between R1 000 and R9 000 are being illegally trafficked among farmers.
On the farmer’s Facebook group, Farmers’ Forum SA, farmers can be seen posting on the group offering to sell their vouchers for cash.
According to Ngcobo, farmers are not permitted to resell their vouchers and those who are doing it will be open to severe repercussions.
Ngcobo tells Food For Mzansi, “Farmers that are found to be doing that will be blacklisted by the department and barred from receiving government support.”
“The trading of vouchers is not acceptable at all. According to section 1.6 of the PESI SOP, vouchers will only be redeemed for non-financial support from registered suppliers,” he adds.
Why farmers are trading vouchers for cash
“There are people who received vouchers who are offering to trade them for cash, while others are advertising that they are willing to pay cash for vouchers.”
Van Veenendaal explains that he personally cannot see how traders would succeed in this.
Van Veenendaal says based on the posts that he has seen on the Facebok group, some of the comments suggest that farmers are trading their vouchers for cash because their interests and needs have changed. “Others sell their vouchers because they say they are hungry and need money.”
Department vows to address voucher issues
Meanwhile, farmers are also complaining that some of the vendors chosen by government do not exist.
“A lot of people received the voucher on their phone, but they didn’t know where to go and redeem the voucher. There was a lack of proper communication, and farmers complained about not being given a list of suppliers in their area that they could go to,” Van Veenendaal explains.
Food For Mzansi asked the department why this was the case and what they intended to do about it.
Ngcobo responds, “DALRRD is aware of this challenge and is currently attending to this.”
He adds that a comprehensive list of suppliers was made available for farmers to access. “The list of suppliers is issued out in accordance with the areas that the suppliers operate in.”
The PESI scheme was announced in October 2020, however, the application process opened in December only.
“We are now in April and some people are only receiving vouchers now that they really needed months ago, when they were setting up their productions,” he adds.