This past week Saai, an organisation that represents the interests of family farmers, has been inundated with phone calls from frustrated family farmers who were prevented from travelling through roadblocks because they did not have Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) certificates that identify them as essential service providers.
Regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002, issued by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, currently regulate all aspects of the lockdown and prescribe the necessary documents that essential service providers require in order to continue with their duties. In terms of the regulations, the agricultural industry has been declared an essential service, critical to provide the country with essential goods and to ensure food security.
“The only document farmers require in order to travel is a form that ‘corresponds substantially’ with Form 1 in Annexure C of the regulations and that is issued by the head of an institution – the head of an institution being the owner or manager of the farming operation,” says Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai.
In order to obtain a CIPC certificate from the Commission, an operation performing essential services needs to be registered at the CIPC, which does not include sole proprietorships.
The regulations issued thus far make no mention of essential service providers registering with the CIPC. This was a requirement announced in a statement by Ebrahim Patel, the Minister of Trade and Industry. While the validity of this announcement is highly questionable, the Department has issued a statement that exempts farmers from the requirement of registering for a CIPC certificate in order to continue with their essential services. Despite the fact that this statement has been issued twice, officials at some roadblocks still demand to see these documents in order for farmers to continue their journey.
“This is clearly a communication issue, one that should be addressed by the Department of Cooperative Governance. We have received reports from small farmers forking out the last of their savings to pay for CIPC certificates online, a service that is free, or paying for Form 1 Annexure C documents at road blocks – which is illegal,” Rossouw adds.
Saai calls on the Departments of Trade and Industry, of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to align their official views and communicate this to the SAPS and SANDF officials on ground level in order for the agricultural industry to continue with its critical task, unimpeded.
Saai requests any farmers who experience problems or corrupt activities at roadblocks, to report this to the Saai WhatsApp hotline at 066 071 6094 in order for further action to be taken.