Cape Town – Thousands of jobs would have to be shed in the agriculture industry in the Western Cape if the devastating water crisis continued, the provincial standing committee on economic opportunities, agriculture and tourism has heard.

Despite interventions by all three spheres of government, the looming job losses would be a further blow to the drought-stricken sector that had been under a worsening dry spell for the past two years.

The potential decrease in employment opportunities, which could affect as many as 17 000 jobs, came as farmers were asked to cut their water usage by at least 30% in order to increase quantities available for residential use.

Western Cape head of agriculture Joyene Isaacs confirmed the figure during a committee meeting this week.

“The current water restrictions imposed on the agricultural sector by national government might be the correct measure at the moment, but they place a heavy burden on one of the biggest employment sectors in the province,” committee chairperson Beverley Schäfer said on Wednesday.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), which said its members were battling job losses in the poultry sector, among others, said the high number of agricultural workers who could soon face unemployment was “distressing”.

MEC for agriculture Alan Winde steered away from numbers, but acknowledged the 30% water restriction “could lead to less seasonal job opportunities in the region”.

“The extent of the negative economic impact will depend on the quantity and quality of fruit produced under the water-stressed conditions. It would mainly affect the citrus industry, as most other fruit crops have already been harvested,” Winde said.

Farmers in the West Coast and Central Karoo districts had been hardest hit, he confirmed.

“Many farmers have been forced to sell their animals, and are struggling to feed their core herds. We have re-allocated funds to support farmers to buy fodder for their animals.”

Agri Western Cape’s Nic Opperman said: “Producers in the province’s extensive farming areas are still in dire need of drought support. Very little rain has fallen to date in the summer rainfall region of the Western Cape and producers in the Oudtshoorn area are also running into trouble…

“Some areas in the Langkloof are also critically dry, with potential negative impacts on especially apple producers in the area.”

Winde said more than R48 million had been made available since March last year to help farmers deal with the drought.


Cape Argus/Iol News




Medical equipment, a stethoscope and book. Image by: Gallo Images/ Thinkstock


CAPE TOWN – Junior doctors are blaming shifts of 30 hours or more for the death in a car accident of young doctor Ilne Markwat.

The young doctor, who qualified in 2008, was described as someone who went out of her way to help others.

Markwat veered into oncoming traffic on the N1 in Paarl in an accident that killed three others.

The police have not said what caused the accident but doctors believe working long hours was almost certainly to blame.

Markwat worked in the obstetric unit of Paarl Hospital, where interns last year complained to the Junior Doctors’ Association of SA about overly long shifts.

Legally, a doctor’s shift can be 30 hours but many doctors said they worked an average of 300 hours a month.

Safe Working Hours is a group of local doctors campaigning to reduce the hours doctors have to work.

They said South Africa had “lost a wonderful doctor” in Markwat.

The organisation delivered a petition asking for a legal limit of 24 hours a shift to the Health Professions’ Council of SA earlier this year. It had 3,000 signatures.

The council allegedly did not respond to the petition and failed to answer queries from The Times.

Safe Working Hours spokesman Koot Kotze said: “Safe Working Hours directly approached the Department of Health with the same issue. We have not received any feedback.”

In her blog, intern doctor “Barefoot Megz” said of the accident: “The number of consecutive hours – such as our 24-hour-plus shifts – gives rise to exhaustion so bad you might as well be drunk.

“I hate how I second-guess my medical judgment when I’ve been working more than 18 hours. I hate driving home tired and I am afraid that I’ll fall asleep.”

Johannesburg doctor Jonathan Witt said after the accident: “The constant abuse of doctors is disgusting and unacceptable.”

Cape Town’s Red Cross Children’s Hospital limited shifts to 27 hours this year after paediatric registrar Alastair McAlpine demonstrated to staff that there was a link between exhaustion and a greater likelihood of making mistakes to the detriment of patients .

He warned of car accidents caused by tired doctors and said a shift longer than 16 hours would lead to fatigue that could contribute to an accident.

Junior Doctors’ Association of SA spokesman Zahid Badroodien said that even though doctors must leave their hospital at 2pm after a 30-hour shift, many are told to keep working by senior doctors.

“We need to start standing up for our legal rights,” he said.

Western Cape health department spokesman Mark van der Heever said: “The department manages the overtime duties of all medical interns in accordance with the HPCSA guidelines and the department’s own policy.”

Times Live