The uncertainty about whether livestock auctions may go ahead during the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is receiving attention at national level.
This was according to Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (agriculture department).
Recently, several livestock auctions in the Free State had been stopped by police, who even threatened to arrest farmers and auctioneers.
This was despite an announcement by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, that auctions could continue during the lockdown period.
Ngcobo told Farmer’s Weekly that the matter was being attended to, and that the department had revised regulations for the consideration of the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
“They are already on the table of the minister for her consideration and signature.”
Meanwhile, Annette Steyn, DA MP and member of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, advised farmers and auctioneers not to proceed with auctions until the regulations were published in the Government Gazette.
She explained that law enforcement authorities were acting within their jurisdiction, as they were following the regulations set out in the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002, which prohibited all public gatherings of people.
“Although auctions were approved by the Minister, it was unfortunately not gazetted and is therefore regarded as a gathering.” She warned farmers and auctioneers that they were therefore at risk of being fined or arrested.
At the same time, a letter allegedly signed and distributed by Mike Mlengana, director general of the former Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, had been circulating, stating that auctions were allowed during the lockdown.