As the effect of the drought continues to bite hard on residents of some parts of South Africa, the Minister for Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane told the people that drought does not discriminate between colors.
The minister who was participating in a debate in Parliament on the effects of the drought on the agricultural economy, said “Drought is like a silent war that has engulfed us all,” as she took MPs through some of the interventions made by the government, which included the rebuilding of boreholes.
She further noted that the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan‘s decision to dedicate more money towards the drought would make a difference and that declaring drought as a national disaster was as well important.
Mokonyane further pointed out that the rise in food prices caused by drought will affect school feeding scheme as it would no longer be able to use their budgets to feed children, who would have even less food at home.
However, opposition parties reiterated its anger to the government’s refusal to declare drought a national disaster. The Economic Freedom Fighters MP Nazier Paulsen said the government is like a child who had to be constantly told what to do. He added government’s refusal worsens the situation especially on emerging farmers.
“We need a structured state intervention in agriculture. We need [President Jacob] Zuma to declare the drought a national disaster. But we know he is secure in the comfort of his firepool to care about us,” he said.
On the same hand, Democratic Alliance MP Annette Steyn said it was quite clear that this government had a distorted idea of reality and how its citizens really feel.
It is the poor that will ultimately suffer for the effects of this drought. It will also be the poor who will suffer if government continues to deny that it is indeed a national disaster which needs a nationally co-ordinated attention. We commend Parliament for taking a step in the right direction by granting such an important debate but it is now time for the Executive to do its part.
With the Weather Services predicting a slim chance of receiving rain until next summer, livestock deaths and crop failures, South Africa has been backed into a financially tight corner, having to import 7.24 million tonnes of grain and oil seeds between April 2016 and April 2017. We simply cannot afford this.
It is in the best interest of the poor and vulnerable masses who bear the brunt of the drought’s impact for leadership to abandon their denialism. Failure to do so will worsen the growing despondency, increased job losses and unemployment, and worsening poverty.
The Congress of the People (Cope) also called for the drought to be declared a disaster and the Freedom Front Plus MP, Corné Mulder agreed to this calling out on political parties not to use the subject for political purposes.
“We can criticize the government as much as we like, but they cannot make rain. The reality is that the drought affects all of us,” he said.
He called on government to devise means of helping farmers avoid letting go their staff due to the drought, suggesting it could find a way to cover the minimum wage paid by farmers, just until the drought was over.