Joemat-Pettersson and delegates go head to head

Agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s presence at the Agri SA congress in Johannesburg caused a stir as many delegates took the opportunity to air their frustrations with the department.

- Advertisement -

Salam Abram, ANC MP and member of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said that if Joemat-Pettersson had used her power properly there would be an agricultural revolution and many farmers’ problems would pale into insignificance. “You have had three directors-general in six years. A department can’t function like this. When you make appointments you must choose the best possible people with the best knowledge who are prepared to serve the agricultural sector,” Abram told the minister.

But Joemat-Pettersson hit back and said that she would suspend anyone who was not doing their jobs because “if people can’t do their work they must be kicked out. I am tired of incompetence.” Abram said that if race and politics were not taken out of agricultural appointments, then agriculture would not succeed. “If you appoint someone you must make sure they do their job. Since Langa Zita [recently suspended director-general of agriculture] was appointed I could never get him to address issues I put to him and I am a member of parliament. So I have empathy with farmers and their struggle.” 

SK Makinana, deputy chairperson of the National Wool Growers’ Association (NWGA) said he had been trying to get a meeting with Zoleka Capa, Eastern Cape MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform for months, but to no avail. “The department’s ram project for emerging farmers is causing many problems but the MEC refuses to see us.” bJoemat-Pettersson said she was aware that Capa did not want to meet with the NWGA.

- Advertisement -

“She is out of my jurisdiction and there is nothing I can do about it.” She advised them to group together when requesting appointments. Delegates asked if she could do more to protect the poultry industry from cheap imports threatening the local sector. Joemat-Pettersson said that she would arrange a meeting for a way forward, but only next year. Regarding complaints about inept extension officers, Joemat-Pettersson said that she will recommend that in future, the officers fall under the commodity groups.