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Today's oversight briefing on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by Minister Ebrahim Patel to the NCOP and National Assembly took an unexpected turn, leaving critical questions unanswered and casting a shadow of uncertainty over the number of jobs at stake.
Rather than providing the necessary insights into South Africa's inclusion in any potential renewal of AGOA, the briefing was abruptly cut short, leaving members of the Western Cape Standing Committee on Finance, Economic Opportunities and Tourism, who had received special permission to attend, without a proper opportunity to gain clarity on this matter.
For several months, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has relentlessly pressed for feedback from the Minister regarding AGOA, an economic lifeline that grants preferential access to the US market for African nations. The Western Cape alone has more than 136,000 jobs in the agriculture sector directly dependent on AGOA, according to the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.
Despite numerous invitations, Minister Patel has declined to appear before the Standing Committee since May, instead pointing to today's briefing as the platform to address members' concerns. Regrettably, this meeting was prematurely curtailed, leaving many critical issues unresolved.
In light of these developments, I intend to write to Mr. Mandla Rayi, Chairperson of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Small Business Development, Tourism, Employment, and Labour, seeking an explanation for the early termination of the meeting and exploring available options for a follow-up briefing.
Furthermore, I will extend another invitation to Minister Patel, urging him once more to appear before the Standing Committee and fulfil his commitment to providing members with the opportunity to scrutinize his department's efforts concerning AGOA.
The DA remains steadfast in our commitment to rigorous oversight on this crucial matter. The livelihoods of countless South Africans are at stake, and we will not permit the Minister to evade accountability to the people of the Western Cape and South Africa.
Issued by Cayla Murray, MPP - DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Finance, Economic Opportunities and Tourism