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By Staff Reporter

Aggrey Mahanjana, general secretary of the, African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) has lashed out at bureaucrats who fail to execute their duties at the expense of SA’s smallholder farmers.

In a statement Mahanjana said recent reports concerning the return to Treasury of a whopping R228,5 million meant to empower black farmers through the AgriBEE Fund, was not only worrying and disappointing, but disgraceful.

Mahanjana said that there were reports that parliament had instructed the department of agriculture to re-evaluate the need for the AgriBEE Fund because in the past six years no money was used to empower black farmers.

Since the establishment of the fund in 2006/07, it had only capitalised one project. Managed by Land Bank, it received R35 million every year from Treasury and by November last year it had a balance of R231 million.

“Transformation in the agriculture sector remains stagnant while people with the power to change the situation sit with the money until it’s returned to Treasury. The country cannot afford to have political freedom which is not accompanied by economic freedom, as this is a blatant insult to the Freedom Charter,” said Mahanjana.

He urged minister of agriculture Tina Joematt-Pettersson to crack the whip on bureaucrats who ‘withhold’ funds.

Mahanjana said if the department lacked the capacity to implement its own programmes, it must identify organisations which can assist in the enhancement of black farmers’ development.

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