Thoko Didiza, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, revealed in response to a parliamentary question from the DA that South Africa currently has a shortage of 129 veterinarians. This represents 45% of all funded jobs.
“This is an alarming amount of vacant posts when you consider the essential role veterinarians play in animal health and food safety,” says Noko Masipa, the DA’s shadow minister for agriculture, land reform and rural development.
The DA is calling on Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to reverse the decision his department took to remove veterinarians from the list of essential skills.
South Africa is currently unable to fill all the vacant positions in the industry, despite being fully budgeted for in every budget cycle, from 2019 to date.
Didiza said in her reply that in addition to the problem of qualified vets emigrating overseas, the problem with the vacant positions is attributed to a continuous loss of government vets to the private sector and challenges in finding applicants who are sufficiently qualified.
“It is even more worrying that this lack of vets has remained a recurring problem for the past five years. In fact, as the minister indicated, the country has reported a vacancy rate of 38% over the past five years for veterinarians. While South Africa is continuously plagued by livestock diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, it is worrying that we cannot find professionals with the necessary skills to keep the national livestock industry healthy.”
Masipa believes the decision by the Department of Home Affairs to remove vets from the list of essential skills was ill-considered and must be urgently reversed. “South Africa will thus be able to attract qualified professionals from abroad to temporarily tackle the skills shortage while we train local talent for this essential function.”