Don’t exclude us – farmers ask premier-elect Oscar Mabuyane

Mabuyane plans to boost jobs in agriculture, tourism

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Drought-stricken farmers in the Eastern Cape hope to have the ear of premier-elect Oscar Mabuyane as he goes about setting in place a new government by the end of next week, with a key focus on rural development.Job creation through agriculture is just one of the priorities Mabuyane has laid out in his plans for the next five years, saying he would focus on boosting employment through this sector as well as the oceans economy, tourism and arts and culture, among others.And while his plans have received a mixed reaction from business and monitors of public services, commercial farmers have said they will not be naive as they had been alienated previously in the decisionmaking process with regard to drought-alleviation support.Mabuyane’s plans include:● Prioritising rural development to prevent the influx of people moving to cities;● Realigning the roles and mandates of some departments; and● Unlocking catalytic projects, including the waterfront development in Nelson Mandela Bay.On Tuesday, Mabuyane – whose nomination as Eastern Cape premier was announced late on Monday following a special national executive committee meeting of the ANC – said in an interview he was ready for the task ahead.“We have rural development as a priority to manage the influx of our people into urban areas – we believe that the arable land that we talk about is not in urban areas, it’s in the rural areas,” he said.“There’s no need why we can’t process the primary needs of our people in the rural areas.“These things should not be found in cities only.“The government needs to change its way of thinking to curb the overpopulation and density in the cities.“Nelson Mandela Bay remains a strategic tourism hub.“Part of the strategic projects is the waterfront, how to relocate the manganese from there to Coega.“The project has been well prepared and feasibility studies have been done, the private sector is ready and they are saying they have money but have been sent from pillar to post.“We have to co-ordinate this because it will bring thousands of jobs in the hospitality industry, tourism and retail to make Nelson Mandela Bay attractive,” he said.Mabuyane said they would look at how to expand the Port Elizabeth airport so that it could become a proper international airport.“The city needs to be able to compete with other big cities, so that we bring investors to the province.“These are the plans that we have in place, they just need action and co-ordination.“We need to bring people under one roof and see who has what and what we can do.“But we need leadership that can drive this,” he said.Agri Eastern Cape president Douglas Stern said the past five years had been especially difficult as commercial farmers battled one of the worst-ever droughts.“The drought is probably our biggest challenge, but we have survived.“It affects your turnover and there has been no assistance from the state. It’s a case of managing your own affairs,” Stern said.“We have had to face withdrawals from the market by China for wool and mohair, but this was reinstated on Tuesday.“We started off by having good prices for our produce, but then it went down.“This impacted on our turnover and compounded the problem.”Stern said going forward they hoped to engage the provincial government.“When there’s a crisis of such magnitude, we need to sit down and say what our needs are.“We have been alienated and have not had any input, but I am optimistic about approaching this in a more positive way,” he said.Stern said they had received an undertaking from the agriculture MEC that they would form part of the decisionmaking process.He said commercial agriculture had not received drought alleviation but was given R800,000 worth of maize six weeks ago.“That’s the only assistance we have received.“We mustn’t be naive, but as a collective we can have some input and exert some sort of pressure on the provincial department of agriculture as we work as a formidable unit as farmers.“I am hoping going forward we will be able to engage.“We will take this approach and speak to the new department heads and tell them not to make decisions without us.”Responding to Mabuyane’s plan to realign departments to allow for easy co-ordination and integration, Public Service Accountability Monitor head of monitoring and advocacy Zukiswa Kota said critical problems in the Eastern Cape related to weak intergovernment alignment and – in some cases – unclear mandates.Kota said this further weakened capacity and governance gaps.“An example of this is the continued misalignment failures in meeting early childhood development and scholar transport mandates, resulting from poor alignment between the departments of education, social development and transport,” Kota said.“Poor consequence management and failure to lead decisively mean millions of rands will continue to be lost every financial year – funds that could fix roads, provide clean water and ensure regular refuse collection across the province.“Recent municipal and provincial audit outcomes provide ongoing evidence of this.”She said inadequate resources for some departments like human settlements to fulfil their mandates and weak financial management of available resources resulted in suboptimal use of public resources and corruption.While Mabuyane has said the government will prioritise rural development to prevent the influx of people to urban areas, the South African Cities Network executive manager responsible for governance and communications, Luncedo Njezula, said development ought to be in a continuum.“The world over, there has always been a strong correlation between urbanisation and economic development.“Cities are seen as centres for development and economic activity, hence the migration.“The rural-urban continuum exists. While those things happen, development in urban areas must happen – it can’t be either or,” Njezula said.“The reality is they co-exist and they need to be developed to cater to the needs of people.“There has to be a strengthening of opportunities in the rural and urban areas – you can’t develop rural areas at the expense of urban areas.”Regarding the development of the Port Elizabeth airport to international standards, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona said they had partnered with the municipality, Airports Company SA and Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism to establish the Airlift Campaign.“This initiative has the potential to bolster the growth of the city’s crucial tourism sector,” Mona said.“With regards to the waterfront development, the relocation of the manganese and liquid bulk storage facilities from the prime beachfront land neighbouring the PE Harbour to Coega must be expedited.“Further to the relocation of the two facilities, our position is that the land should be rehabilitated for future use.“This land must be unlocked for tourism, commercial and retail opportunities.”

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