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Staff Reporter

Agriculture and Rural Development MEC William Bulwane wants to see more young people getting involved in this sector while local government MEC Thembeni Nxangisa would like to see qualified people employed in municipalities in order to improve service delivery this year.

In separate interviews, the two MECs said they found it important that Premier Sisi Ntombela had highlighted in her State of the Province Address the challenges faced by their departments and what could be done to improve them and deliver better services.

Ntombela encouraged smallholder farmers to graduate to the commercial level because significant large-scale farming is already taking place in the province.

She said about 14.5 percent of South Africa’s commercial farming activities are based in the Free State.

“I think it is important that the premier appreciates the work we do,” said Bulwane.

“Most of the work we do is rural-based and very few people get to see the amount of work that is put in by farmers in order to produce.

“So, we feel very encouraged and would like to see more farmers emerging, particularly youths.”

The province wants to use agriculture as a lever for youth employment and creation of economic opportunities.

At least seven youth entrepreneurs are benefiting from the Goats Farming Project in Tweeling.

A goat house has been constructed for them and they have undergone training.

They currently have 261 goats.

Another development is the Chicky Piggy project in Xhariep.

The piggery has a biosecurity facility, an office block, laundry, a water source and reservoir, a tractor and splitter tanker.

Agri-hubs in Thaba Nchu, Springfontein, Wesselsbron and Parys are now implementing the Grain Value Chain Programme which includes the provision of storage and milling facilities to support Agri-parks through the Farmer Support Production Units in Makholokoeng, Thaba Nchu, Odendaalsrus, Kroonstad and Zastron.

The Free State Poultry Hub Investment Plan was recently developed.

Poultry projects are now being implemented around Virginia, Parys, Frankfort and Reitz.

Nxangisa said more assistance will be given to municipalities this year so they can improve their performance.

“One important issue is to put people with relevant skills and qualifications in the municipalities,” he said.

“All municipal managers have signed a pledge with the premier to improve the performance of municipalities. Mayors as well have signed the same pledge.

“So, we have made an undertaking together to change the situation in municipalities and improve service delivery.”

Several municipalities in the province are facing technical, administrative and financial challenges as a result of poor planning, implementation and oversight.

To date, Mafube, Metsimaholo and Mangaung municipalities have been placed under administration due to failing systems.

Posts for senior managers have not been filled for some time resulting in key projects not being implemented.

No municipality in the province received a clean audit in the last financial year.

Of the 23 municipalities, 12 received qualified audit opinions with four disclaimers and three had outstanding financial statements.

Four municipalities received unqualified audit opinions.

Nxangisa warned those failing to deliver and breaking the law that they will face the full might of the law because things have changed.

“People do wrong with impunity, we have agreed that we will monitor the processes closely and get reports frequently,” he warned.

“So, everywhere where people have done anything wrong, we are going to ensure there is consequence management.”

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