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By Dimakatso Modipa

Assistance agricultural practitioners picketing outside National treasury joined by ActionSA demand allocation of funds to department of agriculture photo by Dimakatso Modipa

Hundreds of Agricultural practitioners camped for several days outside the National Treasury and the Department of Agriculture headquarters in Pretoria before delivering their memorandum on Monday afternoon.

The aggrieved practitioners want Treasury to release funds to the Department of Agriculture so that they can be re-instated to their jobs.

Spokesperson of the Assistant Agricultural practitioners Marcus Tlabela told Tshwane Talks that on the 29 and 30 of April they camped outside the Department of Agriculture to demand reasons for the termination of their contracts.

“We have been pushed from pillar to post to post by the Department of Agriculture and the Presidency and the bottom line is that Treasury is ultimately responsible for allocating funds to the Department of Agriculture so that we can go back to our jobs and be paid,” he said.

“We want to submit memorandum of demands to Treasury because it has emerged that the Department of Agriculture has been in negotiations with the Treasury for over 10 months now and it is clear that Treasury is dragging its feet regarding the issue of allocating funds to us,” he said.

“We have decided that we will camp outside the Treasury and the Department of Agriculture simultaneously from Monday 13 April this year, to press home our demands,” he said.

“We know that we can’t talk to Treasury directly unless push comes to a shove and we are of the opinion that by camping outside the headquarters of these two departments with the hope that somebody, somewhere will have a human heart and come to speak to us,” he said.

“Unfortunately, nobody from both the Department of Agriculture and the Treasury has come out to address us and that is why we have decided to submit a memorandum to the Treasury so that they can release funds to the Department of Agriculture, this paving the way for us to go back to our jobs and service the nation,” said Tlabela.

Tlabela bemoaned the fact that overdrafts and rollovers were made by the Treasury to accommodate Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s projects but can’t do the same for the Department of Agriculture.

ActionSA’s Mpumi Edwards and several members of her party came out to support the Assistant Agricultural practitioners in their plight to be reinstated to their jobs.

“We are here to support young Agriculture graduates throughout the country whose contracts have been terminated by the Department of Agriculture for ten months now because of failure by the Treasure to allocate funds to their programme whereby they were working as Assistant Agricultural practitioners in the Department of Agriculture,” said Edwards.

“Throughout last year these Assistant Agricultural practitioners have been writing letters and memorandums to the Department of Agriculture and the Presidency and responses from both offices haven’t been favourable to them,” she said.

“As ActionSA we are concerned that 98% of government-initiated agricultural projects fail because of lack of capacity and assistance,” she said.

“It is a pity that this is happening at a time where the country is sitting at 40% unemployment rate,” she said.

“If this government takes farming and agriculture seriously as a critical area that contributes to the economy, then it is a disgrace for the government to say there is no budget to absorb these skilled Agriculture graduates within the Department of Agriculture,” said Edwards.

She said ActionSA will stand in solidarity with the graduates until justice is served and the graduates get reinstated and trained adequately to do their work.

She told Tshwane Talks that the government has allocated lots of funds to projects run by Premier Lesufi which have not come to fruition and were just a waste of money.

” We are asking the government to take the plight of these graduates seriously and we will not back down until justice is served with these young people,” said Edwards.

The Assistant Agricultural practitioner’s memorandum was received by Mmule Majola, Executive Assistant to the Chief Director in the Department of Agriculture and promised to submit it to the department for a response.

Duties of the Assistant Agricultural Practitioners include provide technical support to farmers, conducting research on applicable farming innovations, demonstrating sustainable methods of agriculture under climate change to farmers.

Their request to the Treasury is that it allocates a dedicated budget to support the hiring and training of Assistant Agricultural Practitioners as the finding is crucial to address the existing shortage of agricultural extension services to farmers.

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