The Free State provincial government will spend over R50 million in the coming year to upgrade its deteriorating infrastructure, including roads that have been a source of frustration for the farming community.
Delivering her State of the Province Address this week, Premier Sisi Ntombela also said that R100 million has been allocated for agriculture development, including on-farm infrastructure such as irrigation schemes, mechanisation, farm buildings and agro-processing facilities.
“We will create a service delivery technical team made up of civil electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, town planners and ICT specialists in the premier’s office by July this year. This will strengthen the capacity of municipalities to operate and maintain critical infrastructure essential for service delivery.”
The premier acknowledged the devastating effects of climate change and how the recent heavy rainfalls had almost destroyed their agricultural sector. She said they have therefore set up a measure to mitigate the adverse effects of these climate changes through a focus on a green economy, training, and infrastructural management by injecting well over R50 million for upgrades on gravel roads, and for the Pothole Repair Programme.
Ntombela also acknowledged that many of the province’s municipalities were in a dire state. “Running sewage on the streets, poor water supply and mismanagement are all too common. We are eager and willing to transform the Free State to be a growth frontier of the country. This is a time for change.”
Speaking about the Vrede Dairy Project, the premier said they were humbled to finally hand it over to its 65 rightful beneficiaries as part of growing the agri sector.
“This project is now 51% owned by the Vrede Integrated Farming Trust and 583 dairy animals and nine horses have been allocated to the beneficiaries. The remaining 49% will be advertised to attract investors. Women, young people and persons with disabilities are the future faces of the agricultural sector in the Free State,” Ntombela said.
Cannabis and land ownership
The premier further said that sites for cannabis growing have been identified in Kroonstad, Viljoenskroon, Bethlehem, Ficksburg and Wesselsbron while a farm in Glen will be used as a research site.
Property transformation is another priority in the province. “I encourage the people of the Free State to respond to the call for proposals for outright purchase, build-operate-transfer and leases of the 133 land parcels covering 267 hectares of land available,” said Ntombela.
Agri Free State commercial manager Jack Armour tells Food For Mzansi their plea to their government has always been the urgent fixing of the province’s roads. “Maintenance and repairs of critical enabling infrastructure in South Africa, and the Free State especially, is needed for the economy to run efficiently and effectively.”
He hopes that funding will be used for youth training and employment on ground level for the physical grading and drain and waterway clearing work. He also hopes that ineffective and unproductive Contractor Development Programme tenders and EPWP job creation projects will be exchanged for certified and vetted civil engineering companies to do the job effectively.
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