DA pleased that Dardlea budget has increased by 7% given the effect of Covid-19
The Honourable MEC has just delivered his budget plans for the upcoming year, and I am quite happy that given our current economy and the effect of the pandemic, our budget for the department has increased by 7% to just over R1.2 billion.
Honorable Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in Mpumalanga as we lost 1 459 lives. I would like to pass my condolences to all those who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic; may we please have a moment of silence. Honorable Speaker, in the very same breath, the related lockdown caused the loss of thousands of jobs and threatened both food security and job stability in our province.
Given the above, Honourable Speaker, this provincial government should be doing its utmost best to promote the creation of jobs and to promote food security. It is thus from this perspective that I do not support the decision to decrease the hectares of land to be plowed as fewer farmers will be supported for food security, thereby decreasing the number of households to be supported.
Honorable MEC, recently I noted with concern the fact that the department was plagued by staff shortages of vital staff members, and this was in turn affecting the output of the Department. I am pleased that in the budget for 2021/2022 you mentioned that the Department would be filling all critical vacant posts in senior management and veterinary services.
Honorable Speaker, I am extremely concerned that the Department has planned to build two more agricultural hubs, one in Nkangala and one in Nkomazi, and yet the ones which we have in Mkhulu and Mkhondo are not fully functional, despite being built many years ago. Why can’t we ensure that the current ones are fully functional before we build more?
Honorable MEC, the budget reprioritisation affects the core mandates of this department because, despite an increase in the budget allocation to all programs, the output seems to be decreasing. Honorable MEC, foot, and mouth disease is a highly contagious disease and it affects most livestock very seriously. Given the above, we cannot be for the decision to decrease the procurement of foot and mouth disease vaccines as we will be exposing the province to serious outbreaks of the virus.
Honorable Speaker, the Honourable MEC mentioned that the department will continue to focus on climate change interventions by finalizing the Just Transition Plan, however, this is the very same department that took a decision to allow mining in the Mabola Protected Environment or enforce compliance with regards to the Power Stations at Kriel, Kendal and the like.
In conclusion, I believe that a lot more can be done to assist the residents of this province, especially in the area of promoting food security and lessening the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to see the department assisting the residents of this province by promoting food security and improving access of small and subsistence farmers to the markets by fully functional Agri hubs, Agri parks, and fresh produce markets.