This drought, the worst in 104 years, is in fact the biggest game changer we will face this year, not only as a province, but as a nation.
Already 2.7 million people are food insecure. We will need to import far more than the estimated 3.8 million tons of maize.
Many farmers planted outside of their normal schedules and it is very hard to predict what their yields will be.
Buying fodder and drilling boreholes will not be enough. Our drought relief efforts needs to be augmented to include additional funding for operational loans to farmers, a wage subsidy for farm workers, feed packages so sustain livestock and education programmes on conservation agriculture.
The DA will demand that the drought be declared a national disaster so that we can unlock the resources of the national departments, the defence force and the national disaster management centre.
In last year’s State Of the Province Address, the West Rand featured strongly as a development corridor. There were plans for the region to become an agricultural hub.
And yet, The Gauteng Provincial Government, in association with Department of Mineral Resources will soon be considering an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Sibanye Gold to build another mega-tailings facility smack in the middle of some of the best agricultural land in Gauteng.
There are some 1.3 billion tonnes of surface tailings, mine dumps, sitting around the West Rand. Inside these tailings are hundreds of millions of pounds of uranium and gold.
The mining house will be asking permission to mine those dumps, retreat them, and move them to another, new site.
It’s going to cost Gauteng 1500ha of prime agriculture land just on the actual site of the mega dump. This translates into 8250 tonnes of maize, every season.
The mine themselves acknowledge that there is also an environmental risk – Dust particles on windy days can be found up to 3000m in the air affecting and contaminating large areas of the West rand and the Vaal Triangle. The surrounding farms and the communities of Fochville, Greenspark and Kokosi will bear the brunt of the pollution.
If there is any breach of the 50km pipeline or any fault in construction or operation the effects will be seeping into the groundwater.
The mines already have a very poor track record when it comes to respecting our environment.
In my reply to the SOPA, I made it clear that MEC Maile has two choices to make:
If he makes the right choice, the western and southern corridors of Gauteng can become sustainable and vibrant agricultural regions.
After all, in 10-12 years according to Sibanye the gold will be gone. Agriculture will be the only sector that the West Rand will have to offer the economy of Gauteng.
If he makes the right choice, the mines can extract the minerals from the tailings without dumping their waste to become someone else’s problem and compromising agricultural production.
If he makes the wrong choice, without considering the alternatives available, the Westrand will continue in its downward trajectory.
Similarly, voters can exercise their choices in the local government elections this year and, building up to the Provincial Election of 2019. Its time to vote for clean and responsible government that put the economic prosperity and health of the people above the politics of Greed.
Ina Cilliers MPL
DA Gauteng Constituency Head – Merafong City Local Municipality
060 556 4344