Saai welcomes the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s decision to suspend the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) aid packages that was implemented in the form of vouchers.
Saai has continuously warned based on complaints from subsistence farmers across the country that the system has been hijacked by politically connected cadres, that it is riddled with corruption and does not have the outcomes to make it an acceptable investment for the taxpayer.
The PES was a program launched by the Department to enable small-scale farmers with vouchers for agricultural inputs such as seed, fertilizers, agricultural chemicals and diesel to generate a farming income and to create a livelihood for their families.
Saai believes that the reason why the program failed so miserably is due to the distorted policy principles of the ANC.
Instead of exchanging the vouchers at reputable and established agricultural enterprises, race and party loyalty were used as criteria to create a class of middleman who earned both profit and commission from the vouchers. The Department acknowledged that five to 37% of the development aid ended up in the pockets of those middelmen.
Some farmers never got started because the long-awaited coupons never reached them. Only about 55,000 of the two million subsistence farmers have benefited to some degree. With some middlemen the commission was so high that farmers could not buy enough input to see their crops through.
Saai aims to obtain more information from the courts and opposition parties in the parliament about exactly how much money was wasted through this program and how much success can be showed for it.
Fraud and state capture in agriculture are not only a serious threat to food security, but keep a whole generation of smaller family farmers poor, unprofitable and uncompetitive. Without a radical transformation of the department and the policy of cadre deployment, no solution is possible. The ANC has abandoned agriculture in South Africa, and no one suffers more than the small and subsistence farmers.
Saai is intensely involved in agricultural training and agriculture development – from communal farmers and suburban horticulture to beneficiaries of land reform and commercial black family farmers. Private initiatives are the only alternative for a state that fails or fails to help its farmers, and especially new entrants to the industry, become competitive, sustainable, and profitable. However, it is impossible to do the work of the state without the revenue of the state.
Given the scale of irregularities, incapacity and coup d’état in the department, a solution for the modernization and commercialization of subsistence farmers is without a profound restructuring of the officials, a reversal of the effects of cadre deployment and a reversal of their racial policies, not possible. Until then, every new program, regardless of the billions of rands spent on it, will simply make the list of failures in rural development and agriculture even longer.