15 years after the first financial allocation was made by Treasury for a foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccine factory, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALLRD) has yet to dig a single trench to lay the foundation.
In answer to a parliamentary question from the DA, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, revealed that despite the first financial allocation of R214 million by the National Treasury to DALLRD in 2007/08 to build the FMD facility, no progress has been made. This is despite an additional allocation of R400 million in 2019/20. In fact, the project is only at the stage of appointing service providers.
Whilst the explanation provided make scientific sense, taking the necessary care to ensure compliance with international standards should not take more than a decade.
Due to the delay and the numerous outbreaks of FMD through the years, South Africa lost its FMD-free status from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in 2019. On April 11, Minister Didiza announced that South Africa was yet again battling the disease with 56 outbreaks of FMD.
FMD outbreaks has also cost the economy jobs and billions of rands. According to StatsSA, the sale of cattle and their products accounts for 16% of the total commercial agriculture revenue.
It is unfathomable that DALRRD has not made haste with this project. FMD is endemic in African buffalo in the Kruger National Park (KNP) and the Park as well as the surrounding areas are declared a FMD controlled zone. This is why the vaccine facility was endorsed when first proposed and had money allocated to it. It seems that DALRRD has become complacent and has forgotten the dangers of FMD.
The DA is calling for an investigation into the root cause of the delay, which will surely be revealed to be either complete ineptitude or cadre deployment and corruption. It is time the Department rid itself of corrupt cadres putting DALLRD’s food security mandate at risk.