Agri SA has requested that the public protector, the auditor-general and parliament’s standing committee on public accounts investigate what happened to millions of rands of drought relief funds allocated for farmers in six of the nine provinces hit by one of the worst droughts in SA’s history.
The organisation, which represents 29 000 farmers across all nine provinces, said despite the R265 million spent by the department of rural development and land reform (DRDLR), farmers told horror stories of how they only received feed for their livestock for a day.
Agri SA chief executive officer Omri van Zyl said 90% of the R212 million in relief funds was distributed to subsistence farmers.
He said emerging and commercial farmers received less than 10% of the allocated budget even though they produced 90% of the food in South Africa.
Agri SA did an analysis of the drought relief funds spent after President Jacob Zuma announced during the 2017 State of the Nation address that government spent R2.5 billion on drought relief.
“This was clearly incorrect and misleading,” Van Zyl said.
He was quick to add that this is not a government bashing exercise. Van Zyl criticised the distribution of feeds and the sinking of boreholes that were part of the relief exercise.
“Feeds were dumped in certain places, some feeds were wrong, boreholes were drilled in more than one place and it was clear that the service providers did not understand agriculture,” Van Zyl said.
Agri SA also questioned the procurement process and said they would like to see how the six unknown service providers were appointed per province.
“One service provider is listed as a cleaning service,” he said.
The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries allocated R212 million, but in the end only R146.2 million was spent.
“How is this possible in a case of national emergency?” Van Zyl asked.
“The department of water and sanitation was allocated R341.3 million in drought relief funds and overspent by R48.4 million.
“The DRDLR was allocated a sum of R463.6 million and underspent by R144.8 million.” Only 52% of the budget was spent in the North West – and in the Northern Cape at least R7 million is unaccounted for while farmers complained that they did not receive feed, or received too little feed for their animals.
Van Zyl said government spent R212 million on 74 586 farmers, which is an average of R2 842 per farmer. “With this money we could have assisted 150 000 farmers, double the number assisted by government,” he said.
He said Agri SA assisted 15 000 farmers with the R16 million they raised from donors. “Government has a responsibility to all South Africans, regardless of race, colour or creed,” Van Zyl said.
DRDLR director of communications Steve Galane said they were concerned by what had been raised by Agri SA and would gladly cooperate with any investigation.