News Break

News Break gives you slices of predominantly S A News articles. Most of it is current with the odd interesting, timeless article. Feel free to leave your comments at the bottom of the page.


FOOD IMPORTS, CORRUPTION AND INCOMPETENCE – A TOXIC MIX

Submitted by David Blyth, Pr Eng Mobile: 083 632 5371 Office: 012 672 4602 Fax:  012 672 4182

On June 30 2014, President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill which reopens the restitution claims process that closed at the end of 1998. This legislation gives land claimants until June 30, 2019 to lodge land claims. The law also regulates the appointment and service conditions of Land Claims Court judges.

 

South Africa has been through “final dates” plans before, but a non-variable in all of this is that giving productive farms to land claimants has proved to be a failure. Common sense says leave the policy to wither on the vine, and concentrate on using uncultivated land already available. Common sense is however thin on the ground in South Africa, evidenced by new suggested legislation which takes 50% of a productive farm and gives it to the workers. (If anything reveals such a woeful lack of capacity to even grow one’s own food, it is this government’s continual poaching of someone else’s productive land.)

 

Minister of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) Mr. G.E. Nkwinti’s 50% proposal drew howls of protest throughout the country, while overseas observers saw the writing on the wall for South Africa’s food security. When confronted about the destruction of productive farms as a result of its policy, the ANC has declared that food can be imported. Clearly they have thought this through the same way they’ve thought through the land restitution process. What is scary is that failure doesn’t seem to worry the government. We observe the cavalier manner in which failure is ignored, swept under the carpet or vociferously defended. It’s always someone else’s fault, or it’s the result of apartheid and/or colonialism.

 

IMPORTING

 

With the importation of food as the ANC’s apparent Plan B, it might be worthwhile investigating a food importation capacity scenario based on the government’s behavior over the past twenty years. Hallmarks of ANC rule during this period have been incompetence, corruption, nepotism and a huge dollop of narcissism. These traits could have huge influences on food importation. South Africa would be very vulnerable: others would control the quality, the price and the availability of food. Even more insidious is the question of the accountability and the capacity of government personnel to successfully ensure that the food that comes into South Africa is suitably checked at the countries of origin, at points of disembarkation in SA,  and that it won’t go on to local retail shelves until it is 100% safe.

 

Given the all-pervasive corruption within all levels of government, this cannot be guaranteed at all. In fact, we have to take everything they say or promise with a pinch of salt. They cannot be trusted. They promise to look into “the challenges” and they promise to “address the issues” and they promise to bring the guilty to book. But they don’t answer phones or correspondence, they don’t keep appointments (if they agree to an appointment at all!) , they don’t reply to press enquiries, and they are not accountable to anyone. They do what they like, despite the consequences.

 

THE FDA

 

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses a risk-based approach to food and beverage products entering the US but it only has the capacity to physically inspect 2% of this food. The FDA lowers its risk by only dealing with accepted food-testing laboratories overseas and they use third party auditors to police foreign food facilities. Despite this rigorous approach, food imports are the cause of many foodborne illnesses in the US. Contaminated raw ingredients from overseas have made their way into different locally produced products, creating a “recall nightmare” according to one FDA official. This is in a country with a relatively honest and accountable civil service.

 

One’s imagination runs riot to think what would happen here with bribery and corruption extending to food safety. Accountability and respect for food safety would probably be at the same level as those who will “turn South Africa into darkness” by striking at Eskom, or those who strike for five months, seriously crippling the country’s mining industry, or those who are happy to see the country’s productive farming sector hobbled by such onerous legislation that it is difficult in many instances to either keep on farming or to consider investing one’s capital in future agriculture.

 

A cursory glance at one week’s newspaper headlines in South Africa shows how the bar has been seriously lowered with regard to accountability in general within government and certain business circles. If the ruling party doesn’t care about anything other than keeping itself in power, then the chance of food safety as a given is virtually nil. John Kane-Berman, consultant for the SA Institute of Race Relations, says public service managers are being encouraged to keep posts vacant rather than fill them with whites. He says this is a lose-lose-lose situation and it is “madness”. “Affirmative action, cadre deployment and a lack of accountability are a toxic mix”.

 

Which officials took action when the Nigerians of Hillbrow slaughtered live animals in local flats and sold the meat on the pavement?  Who is checking the cattle wandering around the country’s townships for foot and mouth and other infectious diseases?  Has anyone done anything about the high e coli content of the soil where food sold at roadsides is grown? And what unmentionables are being sold by the witchdoctors under the Faraday flyover in Johannesburg?

 

How many government veterinary posts are vacant and are not being filled because of affirmative action? What about our border inspectors? How much do they ask to look away when monkey meat and other unmentionables are brought into SA by so-called refugees from disease-ridden Central Africa?

 

Will harbor inspectors be honest enough to fully inspect container contents or will they sign off on a hefty bribe? And which SA civil servant will have the integrity to reject imports from China when a cash incentive is flashed before his eyes?  There have been numerous incidents involving food safety in China such as the unconventional use of pesticides or other dangerous food preservatives or additives, and the use of unhygienic starting materials as food ingredients   If SA commercial farming takes a dive and food importation increases, who will issue import permits and on what basis? Will a Chinese cheese factory or an Indian grain exporter get the contract because his price is “right” or there’s a nice “commission” involved? What about the regulation and inspection of SA’s abattoirs: if whites are precluded from managing these important elements in meat safety, who will get the job? Will overseas producers pass off second rate foodstuffs to South African officials because they know our country is corrupt to the core?

 

MINUTES

 

It is worth perusing the minutes of an SA Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s report on Meat Inspection and Labeling in SA (26 March 2013). Inter alia, the Universities of Stellenbosch and Western Cape presented their research findings to the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Departments of Health (DoH) and Trade & Industry (DTI).

 

Labeling was a problem – there were findings of mislabeling because, among other problems, South Africa’s DNA genetic database was incomplete. “Cultural and religious slaughtering of animals is not performed at registered abattoirs”, they said, and the selling of this meat was of concern to the presenters.

Members of the presenting committee asked how tests for verification of “undeclared meat species” could be conducted when the DNA database was not complete.  A pie chart summarized the percentage of samples which had substitutions: 69% of biltong samples and 86% of droëwors and sausage samples included species that were not indicated on the labels. Proportions of horse meat were found in the biltong samples and pork was found in ostrich sausage. Proportions of kangaroo, sheep and Cape Mountain Zebra were found in game samples

 

Ninety five of the 135 samples examined by the University of Stellenbosch contained undeclared species. Some contained donkey meat, as well as water buffalo. The slaughtering of donkeys was of concern - was the animal slaughtered in an abattoir or within the “informal system” as they so delicately put it? Another concern was that allergens were not mentioned on the labels. It was also necessary to track where imported horse meat had ended up in the food chain.

 

The Department of Health stated that it had “devolved” its duties to local municipalities!

The universities’ report is long and detailed: it asks who is checking the overseas facilities where meat is sourced and packed for export to South Africa, and whether veterinary authorities in that country have certified the product? Have they? We wouldn’t know. Given the slap dash unaccountable attitude to anything requiring meticulous attention to detail, we can hardly be wildly confident about our government’s ability to handle this situation.

Replying to the universities’ sometimes harrowing report, Dr. B.M. Modisane of DAFF said that while it was possible to find traces of human DNA in the meat samples because human beings handled the meat, it did not mean that human flesh was found in the meat! That was a relief!

 

Much of the anxiety reflected in the report would perhaps be absent if South Africa’s commercial farmers were left alone to produce safe and sufficient food for the country. But given the SA government’s propensity to restructure the past, importing food may be a future reality. Who will check the checkers?


Thuli Madonsela inspects KZN game park fence after complaints

19 July 2014 11:07

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has inspected the fencing at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal following complaints of attacks by wild animals, her office has said.

“On Thursday, the Public Protector, who was accompanied by a team of investigators from her office, inspected the quality of the fencing around the 960 square km park, to ascertain if indeed it left local communities and their livestock vulnerable to wildlife attacks,” her spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said yesterday.

Madonsela met a group of residents and headmen from the area.

Residents alleged they were forcibly removed from the land without compensation.

“Community members complained that their rights to the land had been trampled upon,” Segalwe said, adding that residents claimed locals were not benefiting from the park.

They also alleged that, because of a 1950 policy, they were compensated only for attacks by animals that were not indigenous to the area.

“They called for the review of the policy and increased efforts to stop dangerous animals from escaping,” he said.

Madonsela also met officials from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, a state institution that manages the park.

- Sapa


Safa keeps South Africans in the dark about new Bafana coach

Sapa | 19 July, 2014 10:50

With a week to go until the new Bafana Bafana coach is officially unveiled in Johannesburg, South Africans are still no closer to knowing who the SA Football Association (Safa) will name on July 26.


Joint-favourite to get the nod, Carlos Queiroz, was widely expected to rule himself out of the race earlier this week, when Iranian media suggested that he was on the verge of signing a new contract with the Iranian Football Federation (IFF).

The IFF, however, has yet to make an announcement, after Thursday was earmarked as the day that Queiroz would pen the deal....more


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