OR Tambo district mayor Nomakhosana Meth says the concerns of opposition parties that her trip to Argentina is a waste of taxpayers’ money are nothing but “mischief”.
Meth was speaking in Mthatha yesterday at a joint media briefing with three other district municipalities who will be jetting off to Argentina for the same trip.
She said the planned trip to Cordoba province in Argentina would bring about an investment of about R27-billion for agricultural development in the O R Tambo, Alfred Nzo, Joe Gqabi and Chris Hani district municipalities.
The district authorities are set to fly out of the country tomorrow.
They will spend at least seven days in Argentina where they are expected to sign a letter of intent on cooperation with the province of Cordoba.
The Daily Dispatch has previously reported that several opposition parties in OR Tambo district council had blasted the planned trip, calling it nothing more than a holiday and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
In her joint briefing with Chris Hani district acting mayor Sibongile Mbotshane and Elundini local mayor Nonkongozelo Ruth Lengs and development agencies in the municipalities, Meth said the trip was to ensure there was an investment programme to fight poverty.
“These municipalities can become food baskets not only in the province and the country but for the whole of southern Africa.”
She argued that the collaboration with the Argentine government on agriculture would bring in massive job opportunities in these areas while also giving birth to new industries and new markets for agricultural development.
Meth said in Mthatha alone research had shown that people spent around R10-million on importing vegetables and meat.
But the new partnership would ensure that the districts were able to open up seed and fertiliser-manufacturing factories, as well as plants where tractors would be assembled locally.
This would create many new farmers who would in turn be able to employ other people, said Meth.
She said the trip would also pave the way for about 600 tertiary students to undergo exchange programmes with that country.
The R27-billion, on the other hand would also assist in skills development in the four districts and the cultivation of around 200000 hectares of land, with 45000 of them being in OR Tambo district.
The OR Tambo district has already set aside a sum of R9.5-million for conducting soil tests and to ascertain the number of cooperatives operating in the district.
“The mines are closing and we will be hit hard by the continued retrenchment of our people there. Therefore we have to make sure that we are ready,” added Meth.
Mbotshane explained that the partnership with Argentina was still in its initial stages while Lengs also rubbished claims that the trip would be a waste of money.
Instead she said leaders in the four districts could not be expected to fold their arms while their communities continued to suffer.
Sithembele Mase, who represented premier Phumulo Masualle’s office, said the province fully supported the initiative. — firstname.lastname@example.org