Mr Speaker, the response by government to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in KwaZulu-Natal left much to be desired. The department of agriculture and veterinary services waited until it was too late to effectively control the area where the outbreak started from. As of yesterday, no movement control had been implemented, even though the defence force was on standby. It has come to the DA's attention that the border fence between Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal has fallen into considerable disrepair, while the inland foot-and-mouth fence is also in a poor state despite the huge budgetary allocations to maintain it.
The foot-and-mouth disease was detected in Southern Mozambique in December last year, where 179 animals tested positive. Swaziland took immediate steps to prevent it from entering their territory, while our own Department of Agriculture did not take any action, resulting in the World Health Organization for Animal Health's, OIE, foot-and-mouth-free status being withdrawn.
The main stumbling block appears to lie in the lack of capacity and knowledge of the control systems in government, as there are currently 184 vacant veterinary posts in the border and control staff of the department. There is also lack of proper control of our borders. Farmers will, as a result of the closure of our borders for exporting livestock and agricultural products, suffer significant losses and some farmers may even become bankrupt.
The agricultural sector in South Africa already faces significant financial strain and this sector can ill afford more stresses. The sector is not only a significant provider of employment, but also guarantees food security for our country.
The government needs to explain why it took so long to identify the outbreak, as well as why its control measures to stop the spread of the disease were not put in place immediately. Thank you. [Interjections.] [Time expired.] [Applause.]