Wednesday

April 17, 2024

What does Agri Eastern Cape do for you as Members?

The Agricultural Sector has faced extremely tough conditions, both economically and environmentally, over the past few years. In an environment that is becoming increasingly difficult to operate in as a Commercial Farmer, every Rand spent needs to be well spent to ensure maximum return and ultimately the survival and growth of the Agricultural Enterprise.

This leads to the question being asked more and more frequently: “What does Agri Eastern Cape do for me?”

As we approach that time of year when Annual Agri Eastern Cape Membership Fees are being circulated, Agri Eastern Cape felt it was only appropriate that we inform you, the members of the Organisation, of what exactly Agri Eastern Cape does for you.

The reality is that the membership base of Agri Eastern Cape is shrinking year on year. This is partly due to large farming entities buying out smaller farms, as well as partly due to the tough economic climate in which the Commercial Farmer is expected to operate.

One thing is very clear, Farming in South Africa today is very different compared to twenty years ago. It is career suicide to assume you can stand alone against a regime that does not always have the best interests of the Commercial Farmer at heart. In times like this, it is imperative to belong to an organisation that not only understands the struggles, hardships and requirements of the sector you belong to, but also has a seat at the table that makes decisions affecting the Agriculture in this country.

Agri Eastern Cape has worked hard over a number of years to ensure that representation for the commercial agricultural sector is granted at a provincial level. Agri Eastern Cape interacts, advises, and – where necessary – takes on the state departments in all aspects to ensure the best outcome for the members of this organisation. This is also done at a national level through our affiliation to Agri SA.

At a Provincial level Agri Eastern Cape has developed working relationships with the following departments where we meet regularly and engage on pressing matters affecting the agricultural sector:

DEDEAT - Environmental issues and Hunting Proclamations DOL - Labour Inspections and Compliance
ESKOM - Accounts and Outages DFFE - Fire Protection Associations
NERSA - Tariff Determination ECUFPA - Fire Protection Association Functionality
SECSICOM - Hunting Issues EC PMF - Predation Management
EC AHF - Animal Disease Issues ARC - Agricultural Research
DRDAR - General Agricultural Issues and Veterinary Services DWS – Tariffs and Sewerage Issues
DALRRD - Locust Control EC PSTF – Stock Theft
SAPS - Provincial Joints and Rural Safety ECOAF – Organised Agricultural Leadership
DME - Mining Applications BLSA – E2 (Eyes and Ears) Project
TRANSNET - Harbours and Railways BKCB – Security Initiatives
MTN & Vodacom – Cell Tower Coverage and Outages  

To take this a step further, it is not adequate enough to say you have a seat at the table if you are not willing to make your voice heard. Agri Eastern Cape has taken a hard stance in recent years and as an Organisation we are holding certain State Departments, Municipalities and Key individuals accountable for failures or mismanagement of resources under their control. Below is a list of cases Agri Eastern Cape is currently litigating on behalf and for the betterment of the members of this organisation:

  • Department of Roads and Transport                                       In progress since 2015
  • Minister of Defence – 6SAI Training Area                               In progress since 2009
  • Ndlambe Municipality – Stray Animals                                    In progress since 2016
  • Inxuba Yethemba – Stray animals                                              In progress since 2018
  • Great Kei Municipality – Stray animals and dogs                 In progress since 2020
  • Chris Hani District Municipality – Sewerage                           In progress since 2021

Further to these cases currently being litigated, Agri Eastern Cape has filed papers and litigation is pending (due to lack of meaningful engagement) on the following cases:

  • Chris Hani (Middelburg & Elliot) – Sewerage
  • Koukamma – Sewerage and Stray Animals
  • Senqu Municipality and SAPS – Stray Animals
  • Inxuba Yethemba – Property Rates

It is clear to see just from a litigation aspect that Agri Eastern Cape has the best interests of the Commercial Farmers at heart and will continue to support and take up the fight on behalf of the Farmer who is a member of this organisation.

It is also critical to understand that Agri Eastern Cape, as a member-based organisation, can and will only support members of this organisation. It is also vitally important that members pay their membership fees in the correct category according to their annual turnover. We also encourage all members to become actively involved in their local Agricultural Association. It is through the Agricultural Associations that Agri Eastern Cape will regularly communicate on all projects and developments within the Agri Eastern Cape Organisation.

Agri Eastern Cape has separated the projects it works on into “Portfolios” in order to streamline the workflow and ensure these projects receive the necessary attention they deserve. While all Portfolios are discussed in depth at a General Council level, Each Portfolio is also assigned a Chairman from the General Council ranks as well as a manager from the Office Staff. The Office Staff will deal with the day-to-day issues relating to the Portfolio while the Chairman has an oversight and controls the direction of the Portfolio:

Land:

Chairman:           Peter Cloete

Manager:             Brent McNamara

In this portfolio Agri Eastern Cape deals with all processes regarding Expropriation Without Compensation, Illegal Land Invasions, and Land Occupations. Agri Eastern Cape as an organisation is vehemently against Expropriation Without Compensation and will continue to express our viewpoint through the correct channels including the national forums through Agri SA.

Labour:

Chairman:           Johan Wege

Manager:             Natasja Barkhuizen

The Labour Portfolio addresses all matters relating to the employees of the Commercial Farmers and members of Agri Eastern Cape. This includes but is not limited to: Wage Disputes and Evictions.

The Commercial Farmers are currently being portrayed in a misleading light in various media forums with regards to how employees are being treated and Agri Eastern Cape continues to engage with not only the Media but the Department of Labour to dispel these untruths. Another major topic of discussion in this portfolio is the recently introduced 16% wage increase.

Rural Safety:

Chairman:           Coert Jordaan

Manager:             Jason Kümm

Agri Eastern Cape General Council recently elected Coert Jordaan as the new chairman of Rural Safety for the organization. Coert served for many years within the ranks of the SAPS. He was a full colonel and was the station commander at Butterworth. Coert has a strong understanding of the SAPS structures and has already made tremendous inroads with the upper echelons within SAPS. His inputs have already seen great successes including having SAPS task teams deployed in areas that require attention. Coert most certainly has a seat at the SAPS table and is working hard to solve issues for the members of Agri Eastern Cape on all fronts relating to rural safety.

Agri Eastern Cape through the Affiliated AFPP Public Benefit Organisation has been maintaining and expanding the Rural CCTV Network which is run operationally through the Agri Ops Coordination Centre. This network consists of over 214 poles with 270 License Plate Recognition Cameras and a further 496 Overview Cameras for a total CCTV network of 766 cameras spread out across the Eastern Cape. The current platform being used in the Coordination Centre is Syntell and this allows us to be automatically linked to the SAPS through the E2 (Eyes & Ears) initiative through which we have direct lines of communication with the SAPS Provincial Operations Command Centre based in Zwelitsha. The SAPS has also used information from the CCTV Systems and the Agri Ops Coordination Centre on numerous occasions through subpoenas to ensure that this information will hold up in court and to ensure convictions. Agri Eastern Cape has been Subpoenaed 11 times in the last 3 months alone for evidence to appear in court.

It is also important to note that, through Agri SA, Agri Eastern Cape has a formal agreement in place to secure wayleaves for installations to be placed within the road reserve of the national roads. This ensures that the correct permissions are obtained and that the Agricultural Association that owns the infrastructure is legally covered from liability should there be any claims resulting from the infrastructure being placed within the road reserve.

The E2 project is also not solely focused on CCTV Cameras but is used as a platform for Private Security and key role players to assist the SAPS by being the eyes and ears on the ground to ensure the correct information of criminal activity. Agri Eastern Cape has used this platform on numerous occasions to report Protest Action throughout the province to ensure the correct Police Forces are deployed to the area affected and to resolve the issue as soon as possible. In numerous occasions Agri Eastern Cape has also been invited to form part of the SAPS Operational JOCs during these Protest Actions to ensure that the agricultural sector is being safeguarded during these events.

Natural Resources

Chairman:           Christo Venter

Manager:             Günther Pretorius

One of the main concerns under this portfolio, especially as the Eastern Cape is experiencing drought throughout the province, is Water Issues.

The Agricultural Sector consumes more than 60% of the available water resource in South Africa and Agri Eastern Cape engages regularly with the Department of Water and Sanitation to discuss all issues relating to the availability and use of this resource within the agricultural sector. Weekly meetings are held with the various water boards, department and concerned municipalities to discuss the importance of water in Commercial Agriculture.

Agri Eastern Cape together with Agri SA continuously strive to influence policy decision making that relates to the increasing water prices and the restrictions of use for the agricultural sector. The sustainable use of water remains a priority for the members of Agri Eastern Cape and therefore remains a priority to this Organisation.

Further to the use of water, Agri Eastern Cape is deeply committed to the cause of correct wastewater management, and therefore, as mentioned above, will continue to litigate against the departments and municipalities responsible for the maintenance and processing of wastewater at the sewerage facilities throughout the Province.

Trade and Economics

Chairman:           Dickie Ogilvie

Manager:             Günther Pretorius

This portfolio is possibly the most controversial portfolios within the Agri Eastern Cape stable, with various projects that require daily attention from the portfolio manager:

Eskom:

Agri Eastern Cape has established a positive working relationship with Eskom’s General Manager in the Eastern Cape. Regular meetings are held with the EC Eskom team to address pressing issues relating to the members of Agri Eastern Cape. Agri Eastern Cape has established a dedicated Infrastructure Fault Reporting Number, where members can and are sending their Eskom faults through to the Agri Eastern Cape offices. These issues are being addressed first hand between Agri Eastern Cape and Eskom.

Agri Eastern Cape is also entrenched in never ending battles with NERSA and Eskom regarding increased tariffs and administrative costs, and these issues are being addressed on an annual basis.

The reality is that the Eskom infrastructure throughout this country is ageing and is failing. This is most significantly noticeable throughout the agricultural areas. In the attempt to find suitable alternative solutions, Agri Eastern Cape has engaged with the four major banks (ABSA, FNB, Nedbank, Standard Bank) as well as reputable solar energy installers to identify alternative energy solutions for the members of Agri Eastern Cape.

Roads:

Agri Eastern Cape has already taken the Department of Transport to court on two separate occasion and have been successful in the first application in an attempt to improve the quality of the roads throughout the agricultural sectors. Outside of litigating against the Department of Transport, Agri Eastern Cape has established a well-working relationship with the department where urgent problems are being addressed on a daily basis.

Agri Eastern Cape has also established “Roads Forums” throughout the province to ensure regular and structured meetings are being held between the department and stakeholders.

The state of one of the roads in the Chris Hani District

Municipal Rates and Taxes:

Negotiations with Municipalities regarding Rates and Taxes continue to take place on a regular basis as this remains a concern for many members of Agri Eastern Cape.

Agri Eastern Cape has assisted numerous Agricultural Associations with negotiations often including intervention from the Agri Eastern Cape legal team.

Other Agri Eastern Cape Projects:

Legal Aid Fund

The Legal Aid Fund was established in 2003 with a specific set of qualifying criteria.

Since 2003, R6 034 495.63 (six million thirty-four thousand four hundred and ninety-five Rand and sixty-three cents) has been disbursed to members. This assistance was dispersed for land claims, ESTA matters, property rates matters, municipal service delivery matters, shale gas exploration, as well as for mining and water rights issues.

Further to this, Agri Eastern Cape has become directly involved in matters, considered to have Provincial Importance. These matters include Roads, Stray Animals, and Sewerage contamination of our rivers.

Traceability Tags (AIMS – Animal Identification Movement System)

With the latest Foot & Mouth Disease outbreaks in the country, Agri Eastern Cape in partnership with Codeflux and Allflex started with a voluntary traceability system called AIMS.

AIMS utilizes ICAR approved Allflex VID (Visual Identification) and EID (Electronic Identification) tags, linked to a particular user through a web-based animal movement tracking platform. Tags can be order through the Agri Eastern Cape office and members can register on the web-based system with no costs involved.

The web-based platform can be accessed on (http://traceability.agriec.co.za/) to register.

Scanning an Agri EC AIMS Traceability Tag in Alexandria

AGRI EASTERN CAPE COORDINATION CENTRE

Agri Eastern Cape has launched a 24/7/365 Coordination Centre located within the Agri Eastern Cape offices. This coordination centre was established to assist all members of Agri Eastern Cape in emergency situations and to assist with various operational coordination activities, such as locust swarm tracking and crime reporting.

In the event of an emergency situation, any member of Agri Eastern Cape can contact Agri Ops on the dedicated number by any means and the operator on duty will assist in coordinating the situation and contacting the necessary role players needed to ensure that your focus remains on the problem at ground level. These emergencies include, but are not limited to: Farm Attacks, Emergency Medical Assistance, uncontrollable fire outbreaks, and Flooding.

In terms of Crime Reporting, Agri Eastern Cape has set up a dedicated Telegram Number where members can report all incidences of crime they are faced with. This can be as small as a pair of pliers stolen from a shed to stock theft, protest action, or any other criminal event. There are a few requirements for this which include a description of the event, a GPS location of the event and if possible, a CAS number.

This information allows the Agri Ops Coordination Centre to accurately plot the criminal activity and details on the EarthRanger platform. This information is then collected and tabulated to assist the organisation when conducting meetings with the relevant state entities to ensure our collective voice is heard with factual evidence to back up the argument. This information has already been successfully used in the Langkloof to assist in the deployment of a SAPS task team into the area.

Where possible, information should first be verified before contacting the coordination centre.

The Agri EC Coordination Centre has been divided into 3 main categories and each category has a dedicated contact number and procedure

The Agri Eastern Cape Coordination Centre in Gqeberha

EarthRanger Incident Capturing:

Agri Eastern Cape makes use of a software programme called EarthRanger to capture all incidences reported to the Agri Ops Coordination Centre by the members. These incidences include, but are not limited to, Crime reports, Protest Actions, Locust Outbreaks, Fires, and Stock Theft.

This allows Agri Eastern Cape to not only compile detailed reports of each incident, but also to plot these incidences on a map. This paints a very clear picture of where our problem areas are for each type of incident and assists in trend analysis.

With this level of information provided by the members, Agri Eastern Cape stands in a very powerful position when debating these points with various state departments and external role players.

INFRASTRUCTURE AND NATURAL DISASTERS

In this category any issue related to Natural Disasters (flooding, Fire, etc.), Eskom, and Roads should be reported via the Telegram App ONLY. There are existing protocols to follow when reporting an Eskom problem and this protocol should still be followed when reporting an issue to the Agri EC Coordination Centre. The same applies for roads throughout the province that need attention. For natural disasters a message should be sent to the Agri EC Coordination centre with a description of the problem, the location of the problem (preferably a pin drop or GPS coordinate) as well as any photographs of the disaster.

CRIME AND INCIDENT REPORTING:

For all crime-related activities and incidents, the members of Agri Eastern Cape are encouraged to report these incidences to the Agri Eastern Cape Crime Reporting number via the Telegram App ONLY. This will allow Agri Eastern Cape to ensure that crime-related activities receive the necessary attention from the SAPS. We encourage the members to always open a case and ensure that you are given a case number. This case number should also be provided to the Agri EC Coordination Centre. However, even if a case number is not obtained, we still encourage the members to report these incidents to the Coordination Centre. Civil unrest and protest action must also be reported to this number. To report crime to the Agri EC Coordination Centre please send a Telegram message.

EMERGENCY HELPLINE

In an emergency where immediate assistance is required, Agri Eastern Cape has set up a dedicated number. This number can be contacted via a phone call, WhatsApp but preferably Telegram message for assistance. THIS NUMBER MUST ONLY BE CALLED FOR EMERGENCIES THAT REQUIRE URGENT AND IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE. Examples of this would be: Farm Attacks, Immediate Medical Assistance, Life Threatening situations.