This was in response to questions by Farmer’s Weekly, aimed at gauging sentiment in the sector about the minister’s performance during the first three years of his term.
TAU SA’s CEO, Bennie Van Zyl said the minister’s intentions were correctly formulated but in practice the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was dominated by and was subservient to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR).
“In terms of influencing national policy aimed at preventing growing rural poverty and decreasing employment, and sustaining primary food production, no real headway has been made,” said Van Zyl.
“I would like to see a clearer and more dedicated focus on economic issues with a direct bearing on agriculture and primary production, as well as the creation and development of expertise in agricultural matters,” he said.
Aggrey Mahanjana, group managing director of the National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (Nerpo), said Zokwana “is a good person, equally accessible to everyone, a good listener and has great plans for the sector”, but does not have a good background in agriculture, especially commercial agriculture. In terms of a legal framework, he has also failed to effectively implement any new programmes, he said.
Omri van Zyl, Agri SA’s CEO, said Zokwana had not served the needs of farmers, which was a large service delivery failure.
“Farmers did not get any assistance during last year’s drought; we don’t know what happened to the funding. We have engaged the minister and the director-general of DAFF, Mike Mlengana, on several occasions but no information was forthcoming. He is engaging with good conceptual thinking but there is no implementation. There is a lot of talk and very little action,” he said.
Wandile Sihlobo, agricultural economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), said Zokwana’s willingness to engage makes him a good leader.
“By appointing Mike Mlengana, who has a track record of good leadership within the farming sector, Zokwana was able to improve communication and bridge the gap between farmers and the ministry,” he said.
“What I would like to see in the sector is improved communication between the private and public sectors, and farmers,’’ he said.