Speech by Lincoln Mali to the Free State Farmers Union Congress on Agriculture

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Geagte Meneer die President, bestuurslede en lede van Vrystaat Landbou Unie, verteenwoordigers van Landbou Maatskappye, belangstellendes, boere vriende, borge en almal hier teenwoordig.

Dit is vir my ‘n aangename voorreg om u Kongres toe te spreek en wil ek u graag bedank vir hierdie geleentheid. Die tema wat u gekies het “Vrystaat Landbou bestuur die volgende Dekade” …. het my inderdaad aan die dink gesit. Bestuur beteken “vooruitgaan” of “beweging” en die vraag is ” Waarheen is ons op pad ? Waarheen is die Landbou in die Vrystaat strategies op pad? Ongelukkig is daar nie ‘n uitgewerkte en bekende roete nie en moet ons self hierdie roete uitwerk primer tot beswil van elke persoon wat in hierdie Provinsie woon en werk maar ook tot voordeel van die hele Suid-Afrika.

Die Vrystaat is nie net ‘n fabriek vir Suid-Afrikaanse rugby nie (kyk maar na al die springbokke wat hier in die Vrystaat ontwikkel is – en wat miljoene betaal word om vir ander Provinsies die Currybeker te wen), maar hierdie Provinsie is inderdaad ook die kosmandjie van Suid-Afrika waar die meeste van ons graan en vleis verbou word.

Ook is dit die “sentrale provinsie” in Suid-Afrika, waar almal moet deurry om te gaan vakansie hou en jaarliks te doen kry met die vriendelike mense wat hier in die Vrystaat bly.

Maar daar is ook ‘n ander kant wat ons nie kan ignoreer nie en wat swaar onweerswolke oor die Vrystaat en oor Vrystaat Landbou laat waai en wat hierdie pad na die volgende dekade moeiliker en steiler maak.

The damage, hurt, fear and confusion caused by the recent rhetoric around land reform and agriculture is not surprising. As Nelson Mandela observed as long ago as 1953: “Long speeches, the shaking of fists, the banging of tables and strongly worded resolutions out of touch with the objective conditions do not bring about mass action and can do a great deal of harm to the organisation and the struggle we serve.”

Rhetoric is seldom helpful – it is diplomacy, dialogue, mutual respect and broad-based decisive action that are needed now – just as they were in the run-up to the peaceful transition of 1994.

Working the land is not for the faint hearted. It takes passion, dedication, sacrifice, patience, resilience, lots of hard work, a bit of luck, lots of prayer, ’n paar vloekwoorde and a genuine love of the land. This applies equally to black and to white farmers. The land treats everyone equally harshly, whether they inherited it, bought it, grew up on it, were resettled on it, obtained it through land restitution or are working it to subsist.

It takes a special breed of South Africans, to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude, to farm. And let’s not undervalue their contribution. Farmers create jobs, contribute to the education of their workers and children, bring in sorely needed foreign currency, play a role in enhancing rural economies and feed our nation.

In this country, we don’t say it often enough and loud enough: Commercial agriculture is key to our country’s food security, the reduction of rural unemployment, addressing urban migration and effective land reform.

Stereotypes and crude racist labels serve no purpose. Neither does a refusal to tackle the abject poverty and hopelessness of many farm workers and rural people.

Interdependence

In my work, I spend thousands of hours on farms and in townships, rural towns, government offices, and sprawling townships and I am shocked at the level of mistrust, ignorance, suspicion, and misinformation about one another and one another’s motives that I encounter.

Every farm killing, every assault on a farm worker, every farm eviction, every land invasion, every delayed land claim, every criminal attack on a farm, every irresponsible political statement and every racial incident in a rural town further excarcabates these tensions and divisions.

This must stop. All of these people need one another to create an inclusive, non-racial, profitable and globally competitive agricultural sector.

The current drain on rural communities is unsustainable. We are witnessing an exodus of farmers to other industries and to other countries. Every day, able young men are migrating to the cities from farms and rural towns in an attempt to escape dehumanising poverty. Those left behind – black and white, young and old, farmers and farm workers – are left in an environment of tension, hardship and fear. Even worse, South Africa’s ability to feed itself and its future generations is under threat.

A 2008 Centre for Development and Enterprise study, Land Reform in South Africa – Getting Back on Track, outlined two possible future scenarios for land reform. They called the first, which echoed the current situation, “nobody wins”. They called the second, which assumed a worsening of relationships, “everybody loses”.

Without a decisive shift in direction, one or the other of these scenarios seems inevitable. We need an “everybody wins” approach as the foundation of a serious, sober and dispassionate dialogue about agriculture, land reform and rural development.

Inclusivity

To echo Michelle Obama on her visit to Soweto: Our answer to turning around the negative productive trend and unfavourable sentiment around agriculture and land reform simply must be “Yes we can!” Achieving this will demand boldness in thinking, firmness in resolve and consistency in action for the sake of our beloved country on the part of from all stakeholders, participants and leaders in agriculture.

I also believe we need to pay close attention to the lessons we learned in the run-up to our peaceful political transition. We must bring people with us as we develop our strategy.

I have a lot of hope for us. I believe we have the resources to negotiate and sustain a successful programme of land reform, bridge the current divide and create a united, non-racial and prosperous agricultural sector. There is no doubt that a country that negotiated its entire political structure 18 years ago can and must negotiate a new deal in this sphere.

We simply must reach a national consensus on land reform and the future of agriculture. Leadership in the public and private sector has to find the will to get land reform back on track.

We must demand bold, decisive, and courageous leadership to bridge the divide between sound policy positions and effective implementation; to improve the international competitiveness of commercial agriculture while broadening access to those previously excluded; to protect security of tenure, improve working conditions for workers and create a viable and profitable agricultural sector; to support constitutional protections for property rights and the provisions for access and land reform; and to create sustainable labour intensive production systems to absorb the rural poor, thus alleviating poverty and boosting rural development. 

Determination

While reading Mandela’s Way – Lessons on Life by Richard Stengel, I was struck by Mandela’s leadership, foresight and boldness. He was prepared to sacrifice his popularity, the trust of his comrades and the love of his people for a noble and just peace.

Many patriots number among the founders of our democracy. Just think of the contributions of FW de Klerk, Thabo Mbeki, Oliver Tambo, Prof Willie Esterhuizen, Dr Danie Craven, Steve Tshwete, Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, Zac de Beer, Dr Pallo Jordan, Cyril Ramaphosa, Roelf Meyer, Valli Moosa, Mac Maharaj, Kobie Coetzee and Neil Barnard.

I’m certain that all of these leaders contemplated the possibility of failure at some point, but they mustered the courage to transcend that fear and pursue a course they knew was just and fair. In agriculture, we need new Mandelas and De Klerks; Ramaphosas and Meyers; we need a bold vision and decisive leadership.

Action

I would like to suggest that we start bridging the current divide through a few realisations and actions:

Firstly, we need to adopt a win-win approach. People must be able and willing to listen to others. It is possible to bridge a lot of differences that dominate the national political debate. Like our pioneer negotiators, we need to accept that compromises in negotiations are necessary and inevitable. In the words of Mandela, “compromise means each of the parties involved should give away something to the other, to accommodate the demands, the fears, of the other party.”

Secondly, we need to adopt an inclusive approach. All the participants in future negations should emulate our pioneer negotiators by practicing the politics of maximum unity. This approach does not look to exclude people who disagree with a particular position, but looks to find ways to make the tent as large as possible.

Most importantly, we need to respect one another. You may acknowledge differences of view and hold firm in your principles, but simultaneously show willingness to cooperate with others in areas of commonality.

Wat moet verander ?

Landbou bly ‘n hoeksteen van ons nasionale ekonomie, maar ontvang steeds nie die nodige aandag wat dit verdien nie.

Waar le die probleem? Is landbou se profiel te gefragmenteerd en te wit? Is landbou se bydrae tot die BBP te gering? Hoe word landbou ‘n impak speler?

Ons is op die vooraand van landbou transformasie…maar wat is die “game changers”?

Leierskap – Daar is behoefte vir sterk, nuutdenkende, inspirerende leierskap in landbou. Leierskap wat kern besluite op gesonde ekonomies en besigheids beginsels grond, maar wel ook die sosio- politieke arena verstaan en respekteer.

Die landbousektor het negatiewe publisiteit geniet uit verskeie sfere, en of dit moedswillig of toevallig gebeur het; word dit gewoontlik deur eiebelang van sekere individue aangevuur. Onsuksesvolle grondhervorming, wanbestuur van fondse, disrespek teenoor plaaswerkers, onvoldoende kapasiteit van die staat om die industrie te ondersteun, korrupsie, onkunde – noem dit maar, dit was al gerapporteer. Dit dra nie by tot goeie bestuur in die Landbou oor die volgende dekade nie.

Dit is uiters belangrik om begrip te skep vir landbou, en die waarde daarvan, by ons gemeenskappe, besigheidsleiers en veral die jeug wat die toekomstige rentmeesters van die sektor gaan word. Wat Suid-Afrikaanse landbou nodig het, is om ‘n bindende visie te formuleer om eenstemmigheid onder rolspelers te bewerkstellig, en om deur voorbeeld te stel. Ons benodig ‘n ‘de-layering’ van die landbou industrie om eenheid te versterk. Die vraag alhoewel is:  Wat is die eenheids visie van die landbou industrie?

Wie is die leiers wat dit dryf?

Benodig dit ‘n platter en meer eenvoudige geintegreede struktuur?

Die FIFA-wêreldbeker in 2010 het Suid-Afrika op ‘n manier verenig wat niemand kon voorsien nie.  Suid-Afrika het die wêreld vermaak op ‘n verhoog van wêreldgehalte-infrastruktuur, vriendelike mense en byeenkomste wat voortreflik gefasiliteer is.   As ons die wêreld kon beïndruk, hoekom kan ons nie dieselfde doen vir ons eie mense nie?  Ons behoort te leer uit hierdie verenigende sport gees en dit na alle gemeenskappe, munisipaliteite, stede, sektore en ekonomieë te versprei.  Ons moet saamstaan vir die groter doel van harmonisering.

President Zuma is in 2010 soos volg aangehaal: “Dit berus by ons om ons land, ons kontinent en die wêreld te verenig in ‘n voetbalfees.  Dit berus by ons om ons land opnuut te giet as ‘n nasie van vrede, ‘n plek van welvaart en ‘n steunpilaar van vooruitgang op die vasteland van Afrika.”

Involvement

In Parliament last year, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Tina Joemat, provided a good starting point for dialogue, debate and engagement for the sake of our future, our land and our children.

“The democratic government has to navigate a path of agrarian change that does justice to the majority of the people while protecting the interest of commercial players whose interests are also part of the national interest.”

I think that applies to all of us, not just the government. Retired Judge Arthur Chaskalson, has it right: what is demanded of all South Africans, including leaders in agriculture, the political sphere and business, is “that we commit ourselves completely and wholeheartedly to the transformation that has to take place. … (This means) seeking solutions and not recrimination.”

Everyone who has an interest in the South African agricultural sector (And who doesn’t? – We all have to eat!) has a responsibility to contribute and to rally others to contribute to the health of this vital Agricultural Sector of this country.

We need to take Mandela’s words and example to heart: “If the experience of South Africa means anything to the world at large, we hope that it is in having demonstrated that where people of goodwill get together and transcend their differences for the common good, peaceful and just solutions can be found even for those problems which seem most intractable.”

When it is dark, we light a candle; we do not ask who else has lit or must light a candle. When each of us lights a candle, the darkness disappears because we all dared to light our candles.

It’s time to light your candle in support of sustainable agriculture in South Africa; it’s time to be one of the men and women of goodwill who take up the challenge of agriculture, rural development and land reform responsibly and sustainably.

As ons na die huidige landbou omgewing kyk is daar baie uitdagings wat vertroue in die Landbou industrie ondermyn.  Dit is pertinent dat ons vertroue in landbou stimuleer deur seker te maak dat die beeld van landbou; waaraan die publiek blootgestel word die hele storie vertel.  Daar word dikwels na die mislukkings en negatiewe aspekte verwys; maar glad nie genoeg na die positiewe bydraes wat landbou vir die plaaslike ekonomie inhou, beide op primêre as sekondêre vlak en na die sukses stories waar boere en ander belanghebbendes hande vat om vennootskappe te vorm wat die industrie vorentoe kan neem.

Daar lê baie waarde in die vorming van vennootskappe tussen verskillende industrie verteenwoordigers, agribesighede, die Staat sowel as rolspelers in die waardeketting om saam koppe bymekaar te sit en na die talle uitdagings wat Landbou in die gesigstaar te kyk en dit nie as struikelblokke te sien nie maar eerder as geleenthede op die landbou pad vorentoe.

In a recent Agricultural Imbizo hosted by the Standard Bank Centre for

AgribusinessLeadership,  the SG of the ANC and other senior officials,  large

commercial farmers and black new farmers got together in Johannesburg and  draw up

 a collaborative proposal on a policy framework for the Agricultural sector. (Your

president, Mr Louw Steytler was part of the discussions).

6 Intermediate Outcomes to be pursued to achieve the future:

  1. Repositioning agricultural sector policy and strategy
  2. Speeding up land reform and establishing new farmers
  3. Providing effective support services
  4. Economic and Social Infrastructure
  5. Education, training and development
  6. Creating sustainable agribusiness – unlocking agriculture and its potential contribution to the economy

Ons moet ‘n ambisie vir uitnemendheid kweek en seker maak dat Landbou voluit vorentoe floreer – maar ons moet nie dat daar mense is wat agter bly nie … almal moet saam hierdie pad loop. Ons moet iets hiervan uit die Comrades wedloop leer … as jy iemand sien wat swaarkry en wat agterbly – dan moet ons so ‘n persoon help om saam die wedloop klaar te maak.  Ons kan nie toelaat dat nuwe boere wat geleenthede kry om ook te kan boer agterbly nie. Ons wat weet hoe die wedloop gehardloop word en wat al ondervinding deur die jare opgebou het mag nie  toekyk of toelaat dat grondhervorming in Suid-Afrika en hier in die Vrystaat misluk nie. Hoekom is daar nie veel meer swart kommersiele boere hier in hierdie pragtige Vrystaat Provinsie nie ? Hoekom is hier nie vandag meer swart boere wat hierdie kongres van Vrystaat Landbou Unie bywoon nie ?

Ek daag u elkeen uit om ‘n kers aan te steek vir die toekoms van Suid-Afrikaanse en Vrystaat Landbou en die uitdagings vir die pad vorentoe. Ek wens u elkeen ‘n voorspoedige volgende dekade van toegewydheid en groot sukses toe in die Landboupad wat u stap. Kyk rondom u vir geleenthede wat dit u bied om ‘n verskil te maak.

Baie dankie vir die geleentheid.

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