Johannesburg - Criticism of the agriculture department's Fetsa Tlala food production initiative was appalling, the department said on Tuesday.
“The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (Daff) is appalled by the recent media statements that seek to besmirch the good food production campaign, Fetsa Tlala,” spokeswoman Priscilla Sehoole said in a statement.
She said more than 13 million South Africans were faced with hunger.
“It is disturbing to see a government food production initiative that is capable of ensuring a community that is able to feed itself, so vehemently opposed.”
On Monday, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said she believed government departments were using taxpayers' money to assist the ruling party in its campaign before the May 7 elections.
She said her party's legal team would write to President Jacob Zuma requesting him to stop “abuse” of public money for the African National Congress' election campaign.
“Over the past weeks, the DA has been gathering evidence of a co-ordinated effort by several government departments to spend hundreds of millions of rand to assist the ANC's election campaign,” she said.
This included the distribution of food parcels by the social development department.
The agriculture department's Fetsa Tlala (eradicate hunger) campaign Äwhich has received a budgetary allocation of nearly R2
billion Ä was also highlighted.
“Fetsa Tlala... has received an enormous budgetary allocation of nearly R2 billion, and so far there is very little to show for it,” Zille said.
“DA activists and branches around the country have reported that ANC activists are distributing tens of thousands of Fetsa Tlala T-shirts to the public.”
Sehoole said it was a shame that “some elements in our society” were working hard to fight government's hunger eradication work at the expense of hungry and poor South Africans.
“Government has a duty to the hungry and poor people of this country and in addressing this scourge, the voice of the protractors should not divert the real issues,” she said.