A promise by the South African department of agriculture to pay up money owed to winners of the 2019 YAFF Awards, has still not been kept.
It has been more than a year since the glitzy awards ceremony took place and Eastern Cape farmer Siphesihle Kwetana is still waiting with bated breath on her winnings. This despite undertakings by both the national and provincial departments of agriculture to expedite the matter.
Food For Mzansi first revealed the issue in a report published on 20 July 2020, after being approached by several frustrated 2019 YAFF Awards winners who had yet to receive their prizes.
Kwetana received a visit from the Eastern Cape MEC for rural development and agrarian reform, Nomakhosazana Meth, during a women’s month drive in August. The visit gave the 26-year-old an opportunity to air her grievances with the MEC. At the top of her dissatisfaction list was the YAFF awards blunder.
During Meth’s visit, “I enquired about my money and the MEC made a call to their offices. A gentleman from the department later called me and asked that I forward a list of agricultural inputs I needed,” Kwetana says.
According to Kwetana, this was the eleventh list she sent after she and other winners were informed in September 2019 that there were no funds available to pay them.
On Friday, 11 September 2020, she received the most recent call from the department to inform the young farmer that the payment was being processed. Since this was not the first time she has received this message, she is not really expecting the message to be true.
Kwetana has been waiting for her prize since last year. That was when the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development (then still the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries) invited stakeholders in the sector to nominate top young producers to enter for the YAFF Awards.
Recently some of the top young agriculturalists who won YAFF Awards in that competition reached out to Food For Mzansi in desperation. They shared with the publication that fourteen months after the glitzy awards function, they still had not received their cash prizes ranging from R100 000 to R200 000.
One of the winners, Molatelo Edward Kgarose from Limpoopo, who won in the agripreneur category, tells Food For Mzansi that he only recently received his pay-out. Another winner, wishing to remain anonymous, says he is in communication with the department.
This comes after the department of agriculture vowed to fix and fast-track the process to resolve grievances.
When approached for comment for our previous report on this topic, Reggie Ngcobo, spokesman for agriculture minister Thoko Didiza, told Food For Mzansi, “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.”
Deputy director-general of food security and agrarian reform, Andile Hawes, wrote a letter (seen by Food For Mzansi) to farmers in September 2019, explaining that government struggled to solicit sponsorship for certain categories. Also, National Treasury at the time prohibited them to pay prize money from their reserves due to budgetary constraints at the time.
Alternatively, winners would be issued with vouchers equivalent to the value of their prize, Hawes wrote.
- On Monday, 14 July 2020, Food For Mzansi emailed minister Didiza’s spokesperson, Reggie Ngcobo, for comment. We did not receive feedback from the department at the time of publishing, but will be sure to bring you the latest details once we hear back from government regarding the farmers’ allegations.