The end of the road for Joemat-Pettersson?

The members of parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have in the past repeatedly expressed their frustration about the agriculture department.

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Especially its inability to implement projects, address problems in the sector that could jeopardise national food security, and show measurable results for money spent on agricultural reform projects. The committee recently sent officials from the department packing halfway through a Joint Committee meeting of the portfolio committee and the Provincial Committees on Agriculture, after they rejected all reports which the department was supposed to have presented saying there was a lack of crucial information from the reports.

Members of the committee also expressed their unhappiness about the continued absence of director-general, Langa Zita, and both the minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson and the deputy minister, Pieter Mulder, from committee meetings. However, one committee member suggested that the response was not only a sign of built up frustration with what committee members have often referred to as a “dysfunctional department”, but that the outburst was part of a larger political game, triggered by recent media reports which suggested that Joemat-Pettersson’s head was on the chopping block.

Committee member and MP, Annette Steyn of the DA, said she got the impression that the meeting was used by members of the ANC to place pressure on Joemat-Pettersson. During the department’s budget vote debate which took place in parliament earlier this month, Steyn asked the minister to resign from her post with immediate effect insisting that Joemat-Pettersson was mismanaging the department.

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Responding to rumours that have been doing the rounds in government circles that the minister’s job might be in jeopardy, Steyn told Farmer’s Weekly she was told that the committee chairperson, Lulu Johnson, was being considered as a  candidate to take Joemat-Pettersson’s place. “I think it is time for the minister to go and if this happens I hope she will be replaced by someone who understands agriculture and that it will not be another brash and ill thought political appointment,” she added.

Spokesperson for the minister, Rams Mabote, told Farmer’s Weekly that the minister was not expected to attend every parliamentary committee meeting by law, but that she did make an effort to attend as regularly as possible. At the time when the meeting in question took place, the minister was in an extended meeting with the CEOs and chairpersons of the state-owned enterprises that report to her.