In a bid to increase citizens’ awareness of its programmes and to foster a culture of participation, government is embarking on a series of engagement seminars with communities around the country.
A visit by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti to the Amajuba District on Friday was welcomed by citizens in the area, where he spearheaded a seminar at the Emadlangeni Town Hall.
Many people said that they finally felt more like active participants than just spectators to decisions taken by government.
The seminar, one of 30 that will take place throughout the country, forms part of a communications strategy adopted by Cabinet to host regular meetings between leaders of government and ordinary citizens.
It follows a similar one by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi to the Waterberg District in Limpopo.
“The sessions are intended to help citizens understand the decisions that are taken in government and how it will benefit their lives,” explained Michael Currin, Chief Director: Provincial Co-ordination and Programme Support at Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).
While the seminar in Amajuba was intended to communicate the programmes of government following the State of the Nation Address, guests took full advantage of the opportunity to raise issues, demand answers and even offer solutions to common problems.
“Not only do I understand the State of the Nation Address a little better, but having the Minister come all the way to Utrecht to talk to us showed me that government really cares about us, even though we live in a rural area,” said Elizabeth Malinga, a beneficiary of a land claim.
Ian de Jager, a farmer in the area, said he already had a good grasp of the State of the Nation Address but still felt that the seminar was useful in making Minister Nkwinti aware of issues pertaining to the area.
“One of the more salient issues that was raised at the seminar is the fact that land reform needs to be done in such a manner that it gives people ownership with a sense of responsibility, and people must feel the full onus of that responsibility. It is very easy to transfer land but if it is not managed properly, it is a waste,” said De Jager.
He continued: “There was also one gentleman from Newcastle who said he had a group that was willing to offer hands-on training in farming to individuals, in conjunction with the training being offered at a tertiary institution, but the minister explained that the vehicle to drive that programme forward was not entirely in place.
“There are many stakeholders that are willing to participate … more needs to be done in a constructive manner, and funds need to be allocated appropriately.”
During the seminar, MEC for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, Dr Meshack Radebe, dissuaded citizens from “always blaming government for their problems”.
“We will reap what we sow and if you do not plant, you cannot grow,” he said, encouraging citizens to take responsibility for their own futures.
He went on to explain that while President Jacob Zuma announced that 2011 was the year for creating jobs, 2012 would be the year for infrastructure development.
“People say there is a difference between the two but it is actually one thing,” said Radebe.
“Infrastructure development creates the opportunity for people to invest. We have learnt from the Soccer World Cup and we are now calling upon the public sector, the private sector and the parastatals to invest in infrastructure. This will generate huge opportunities for South African business.”
Nkwinti touched on the green paper on land reform when he took to the podium, saying the aim of the document was to bring municipalities, communities, the police, farm workers and farm owners under one institution to solve problems either socially or legally.
“It puts a measure of power both in the hands of the worker and in the hands of the farmer,” he said.
“The reason we have giants and dwarfs in this country can be traced back to land. The giants have land. Eighteen years after democracy, people are still marching in the streets with fake machine guns and it is not right. People don’t know how to respect property because they don’t have property,” he concluded.
After the seminar, guests said they wished they had more time in the discussion slot of the programme. Minister Nkwinti will return to the Amajuba District on March 22, when further discussions are expected to take place.
Source: BuaNews – 11 March 2012