20 July 2020
The drought is no longer considered a national disaster, according to a Government Gazette notice.
The notice, which has shocked agricultural organisations and farmers, was signed last week by Mmaphaka Tau, the deputy director-general of the National Disaster Management Centre.
Tau said the revocation had come about after “consultation with the relevant Provincial Disaster Management Centres and a reassessment of the magnitude and severity of the drought conditions in the country.”
Tau said: “Following the lapse of the national state of disaster on July 4, I hereby give notice that the National Disaster Management Centre revokes the classification of drought as a national disaster.” Drought was declared a national disaster in early March, for the second time in less than two years.
This activated a three-month period during which the government could apply emergency powers to ameliorate its effects. This was extended by another month in June.
Jannie Strydom, chief executive of Agri Western Cape, said: “The drought in large parts of the Western Cape is far from broken and the government’s revocation of the classification of drought as a national disaster comes as a shock. Although widespread and good rains have fallen in large parts of the province in recent weeks, the worst drought-stricken areas have had little to no rain.”
Strydom added: “Revoking the drought as a national disaster indicates that the government has little empathy with the agricultural sector.
“Agri Western Cape understands the need caused by Covid-19, but the need caused by the drought can’t be overlooked.
“The ability of many producers to survive has been under pressure for years, and we are now looking at the inevitable reality that producers no longer have the financial endurance to cope.”
He said the position was worsened by unforeseen expenses to comply with Covid-19 regulations. “All of this impacts on employment on farms and on the economy of the rural areas.”
Willem Symington, head of the Agri SA Disaster Management Unit, said: “This type of ill-considered and reactionary announcement by the National Disaster Management Centre boggles the mind.”
Symington said: “During the past few years, the government has made no real effort to alleviate the long-term impact that the lingering drought has had on commercial agriculture in certain areas.
“The disaster relief of R139 million provided by the government due to the declaration of a national drought is a fraction of the actual cost to the agricultural sector over the past five to eight years. Agri SA therefore demands that the government provide comprehensive reasons why the drought is no longer deemed a national disaster,” Symington said.
Source: Independent Online