• Policy Watch SA


Updated: 2 days ago

There is a difference between employment incentives and relief, just as there is a difference between subsistence farming and supplying local markets with surplus produce. Yet two programmes mentioned in the recently-released presidential employment stimulus package seem to have been misinterpreted by the Ministers responsible for driving effective implementation.

According to a document outlining the employment stimulus package (released with government’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan), ‘through the National Arts Council and the National Film & Video Foundation, calls for proposals will unlock the creativity of the sector in new ways’ – including ‘support for digital content creation and e-commerce platform development’, National Archives and National Library ‘digitisation’, and support from marketing graduates for ‘creative initiatives’. In the sports federations, ‘return-to-play fieldworkers’ will be employed to assist with Covid-19 protocol compliance, and job retention will be ‘supported’. Yet the department’s ‘open call for artists, sport and recreation professions to apply for a share’ refers to opportunities to access ‘further relief’. This is a misnomer. In fact, relief will be provided – but in a different programme targeting qualifying organisations, enterprises and individual practitioners in the craft, design, visual arts and audio-visual sectors.

The next tranche of agricultural relief vouchers is mentioned in the context of assisting farmers to ‘cover a portion of their operational expenses, continue with food production and contribute to food security’. With that in mind, vouchers will be allocated to ‘qualifying small-scale producers … serving local markets in peri-urban and rural areas’. Yet, according to Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza, they will target ‘subsistence producers … at household level’ on plots of land ‘between a quarter and one hectare’.

During the most severe levels of Covid-19 lockdown, the term ‘relief’ was used to describe the purpose of grants made available in all these sectors to cushion those hit hardest by the effects of job loss and production disruptions, among other things. There were two ‘waves’ of relief funding for qualifying sports practitioners and ‘creatives’ – while the aim of the agricultural support vouchers was to help ‘distressed small-scale farmers, who need financial relief’ (SAnews).

Subsistence farming (also referred to as smallholder agriculture) is when ‘one family grows only enough to feed themselves’ (Africa Development Promise). ‘There is not usually much harvest to sell or trade, and what surplus there is tends to be stored to last the family until the next harvest.’ In February 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the National House of Traditional Leaders that government’s land reform programme is ‘laying the foundation for an agricultural revolution’. If the next tranche of agricultural input vouchers is to be seen in that context, more information is needed on the practical support envisaged for assisting beneficiaries in moving from subsistence farming to consistently producing and successfully marketing a surplus – and from receiving relief to becoming self-sufficient and eventually creating jobs.

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