Before we debate the budget, we need to clear an elephant from the House. Our farmers in Gauteng are finding it more difficult than ever to run their businesses because they spend large parts of the day looking over their shoulders.
Gauteng is literally the rural crime hotspot of the world. Stock theft and violent rural crimes in our communities are out of control. The police have given up on us because they are overwhelmed in Gauteng.
We are now also competing for spatial resources with Zama Zamas who settle in large numbers in abandoned mining areas. At the moment, it is grass fire season. When a fire breaks out at night, you have to choose between risking your life to go out and save some grazing, or risking your life by remaining at base to protect your livestock and the people in your care.
You may think that I should be making this speech to Community Safety, but without farmers who want to farm, GDARD does not need any budget.
Many interest groups and think tanks try to hijack the rural safety crisis to further a particular racial agenda. Their research papers and statistics are riddled with confirmation bias and with the police not keeping separate statistics, we really have no scientific baseline from which to design interventions.
When I attend Bonsmara production auctions, and I put my finger on the pulse of the whole event, the way all of us do business together, outbid each other, swop stories and advice, I really wonder what these race mongers dream at night. All that we want, as farmers, it to trade peacefully, in relative safety, and prosper. The difference is that our continued desire to stay in this game, will affect the food security of our citizens.
Food security is an important issue in Singapore, as it currently imports more than 90 per cent of its food supply. This year, the government has set an ambitious target of having 30 per cent of Singapore’s nutritional needs produced locally by 2030. So they called GROW, a new AgriFood Technology Accelerator located in Singapore and launched by AgFunder, the online venture capital investor and Rocket Seeder, the Australian agrifood accelerator.
GROW provides a unique value proposition to local, regional and international agtech and foodtech startups and will support growth in the Singapore and ASEAN agrifood ecosystem
GROW will assist the government to achieve this goal, by supporting 100 agrifood tech startups and scale-ups over the next 5 years. Imagine if GDARD did this.
Gauteng could become the destination of choice for agtech and foodtech startups.
Take some of the money you would have spent on research, and start a project to collect accurate statistics on rural crime; farmers from all sectors will be eager to assist the department. We also need a database of all animal branding that is made available on a shared platform to stop the sale of stolen stock at auctions.
Reach out to Vodacom and MTN- give them some money to ensure that we have adequate cellphone signal in the rural areas, without which our CPF Whatsapp groups cannot function and we often need to send location pins when we help each other.
Start an inter-ministerial task team together with Community Safety to drive the implementation of rural safety units. When a suspected perpetrator of a farm murder is in the dock- we would like to see the department there.
I note that the department does not intend transferring any funds to municipalities for this financial year. I was going to suggest the transfer of funds be used for security technology such as geofencing and drones, but both district municipalities – Merafong and the West Rand are currently undergoing business rescue. Seeing as though we are not sure what happened to the R8 miilion the department gave to WRDM for the Isigayo milling plant, it’s probably not a good idea.
In conclusion, we would like GDARD to look at us in the farming sector holistically- we are not a homogenous mass of poor beneficiaries of your “production inputs”. We are innovative and smart and collaborative, and given the right kind of hand-up from big business, we can grow our own businesses. The problem is that we are not safe- and thatshould keep GDARD awake at night.