What ever happened to the Zero Hunger programme?
A year or so back there was a great flurry of excitement about the launch of SA’s Zero Hunger Programme, inspired by Brazil’s own Zero Hunger Programme. What happened to it?
The Brazilian programme was radical and progressive. It addressed hunger and malnutrition through direct food relief through financial aid to poor families, the creation of “popular restaurants”, market interventions, support to small farmers, networks to connect farmers to markets etc etc.
The South African version was always a watered down version which seemed too heavily skewed towards small farmer assistance alone, with little clarity on how, if at all, household food security of non-agricultural households was to be addressed (materials here).
There seemed to be little progress being made and conspicuous silence from DAFF. Then in June Langa Zita, the Director General of DAFF was suspended (link) amidst rumours of disagreements between him and the Minister.
In the last few weeks the Mail and Guardian has been carrying stories about “Zumaville”. It seems that funds from Zero Hunger have been diverted to the Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative, which is building near Nkandla, Zuma’s home.
So, From May this year”
“President Jacob Zuma’s campaign for a second term got under way this week as Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and Free State Premier Ace Magashule publicly backed him for another term and he handed out benefits from the state to potential supporters in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in a charm offensive.
At the weekend Zuma crisscrossed the Eastern Cape, the second-biggest ANC constituency after KwaZulu- Natal, and presented 14 tractors worth R4-million and Nguni cattle to traditional leaders and black emerging farmers in Peddie (in the former Ciskei) and Butterworth (in the former Transkei). The donation comes two weeks after he handed over keys to four new homeowners in Nkandla—his base where he has built himself a R64-million mansion.
Zuma’s multimillion-rand hand-outs have triggered complaints from some ANC members, who accused him of launching a premature campaign for his re-election using access to state resources. Zuma donated the 14 tractors through the controversial Masibambisane rural development initiative—a project he chairs and co-founded with his relative, businessperson Deebo Mzobe.
Agriculture spokesperson Selby Bokaba told the Mail & Guardian this week that the tractors were paid for by the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, but denied paying for the Nguni cattle. “[The department] has only paid for the tractors, which were procured for the whole Eastern Cape,” Bokaba said. “The tractors form part of the department’s mechanisation project, which is rolled out to the whole country.”
Since its launch last year, Zuma’s rural project has drawn fire for allegedly bullying government departments to make donations. The M&G understands the initiative has angered a number of directors general in Zuma’s administration after it was presented in November 2010 as the Zero Hunger campaign to fight poverty and provide food security.
However, directors general were surprised when, a few months later, the Zero Hunger programme adopted Zuma’s Masibambisane rural project.
Langa Zitha, director general for agriculture, defended the adoption of Zuma’s project, saying it was brought on board because it coincided with the Zero Hunger programme.” (link)
“Last week the Mail & Guardian reported that the department of agriculture had donated, or would shortly do so, R800-million to Masibambisane, but this week Mzobe said he knew nothing about the money.
“I don’t think we’ve had a million rand in our account since this initiative started,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s spokesperson, Palesa Mokomele, also denied that the department had transferred the money to Masibambisane.
Yet two senior officials from the department, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the M&G that Joemat-Pettersson announced to staff on July 18 the decision to transfer R800-million from a departmental programme known as Zero Hunger to Masibambisane.
The two officials also contradicted Mokomele’s statement last week that Zero Hunger was not a departmental programme, but a campaign.
“You let Palesa get away with murder [last week],” one official said. “You should ask her when did the Zero Hunger campaign start, when did it end and why was it ended.
“Zero Hunger is a concept borrowed from Brazil to develop smallholder farmers who produce for themselves and their local communities. But now all that money is being diverted to Masibambisane.
“Now everything is about Masi-bambisane. She [Joemat-Pettersson] is appeasing JZ because she is worried about the coming public protector [report]. The public protector investigated her for expensive hotels and could find against her. She saw what JZ did with [former minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs] Sicelo Shiceka and Gwen Mahlangu [former public works minister] after the public protector findings.”
Mokomele said the money used to support Masibamisane-facilitated projects did not come from the Zero Hunger programme, but from what she referred to as the comprehensive agricultural support programme.
“We use existing funds [for Masibambisane facilitated projects],” said Mokomele. “We do not put money into the Masibambisane account, but we give financial support directly to community projects. The impression [has been created] that the money is taken [from] somewhere [in the department] and put into Masibambisane. That’s not the case.””
A department official told the Mail & Guardian this week that in doing so Joemat-Pettersson had in effect diverted the R100-million budget for the department’s Zero Hunger Programme to Zuma’s project. The Zero Hunger Programme is a government initiative to support smallholder farmers and food security in rural areas.
“In essence, the department does not have a budget for the Zero Hunger Programme anymore,” said the official. “There was a celebratory mood that, with this intervention, Tina has secured the Eastern Cape for JZ. Initially, the department availed R800-million towards the mechanisation programme of the department to buy tractors and implements. R100-million of this budget was meant for the Zero Hunger Programme, but Tina insisted it [all R800-million] must go to JZ’s project.”” (link)
University of Cape Town