We need action, not endless plans

Government is not short of ideas for agriculture. The trouble is, it fails to implement them.

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Recently, I listened to sports show host Robert Marawa interviewing our Olympic gold medallists, Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos, on their stunning successes in the swimming pool at the London Olympics. The minister of sport, Fikile Mbalula, also took part. During these interviews I felt proud to be a South African. Inevitably, there was much discussion around why there are so few top black athletes, especially swimmers, capable of representing South Africa.

Lack of facilities was mentioned as a problem, and Van der Burgh and Le Clos admitted that had they not had the right facilities when they started off, they wouldn’t have achieved such great success. It is a well-known fact that poor areas, especially poor rural areas, are far behind when it comes to proper sporting infrastructure and facilities. Mbalula, quizzed on what the government is doing in this regard, answered that there was now a plan to equip young athletes.

It’s called the National Sport and Recreation Plan and will, according to him, focus on supporting school sports programmes, club development and sports hubs. The plan, I must say, looks very good on paper. It reminds me of the plan put forward by the late former minister of sports Steve Tshwete. And herein lies a major problem: government’s lack of continuity.

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After Tshwete came Makhenkesi Stofile, who instead of implementing Tshwete’s blueprint, had plans of his own. Then he gave way to Mbalula, who has now launched his own plan. If each administration had not restarted the process, South African sport could well have been so much better off today.

Exactly the same pattern bedevils the agriculture and land reform departments – resulting in the same paralysis. I’m not sure why these ministers do it. Perhaps each new incumbent fears that his or her programmes will be seen as a predecessor’s legacy, and so feels the need to start afresh. Currently, there are two new programmes in agriculture: the Presidential Masibambisane programme, led by President Jacob Zuma himself, and the Zero Hunger programme led by the minister of agriculture, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

After a recent meeting with the minister, agricultural unions emerged upbeat about the programmes. According to the unions, the two programmes promise to solve most of the challenges faced by smallholder farmers. But how long will this last? We’ve been positive about government programmes before. Now that Mangaung is nearly upon us, however, one has to ask the obvious question: what will happen to these programmes should Joemat-Pettersson be redeployed or sacked?

What if President Zuma is not voted back for a second term? And what will happen to the people who have pinned their hopes on these programmes? Never mind. Some minister will doubtless travel overseas, grab an idea from somewhere and introduce yet another master plan, which should keep us hopeful for the next five years. It’s just a pity about the billions of rands in taxpayers’ money that go down the tube in the process.