by Sarah King

The voice of reason

Chairperson of Grain SA, Louw Steytler wants to work closely together with government

Chairperson of Grain SA, says a voice of reason is needed between the government and Grain SA in order to start working together for the better of SA
Louw Steytler 1.jpg

Louw Steytler, Chairperson of Grain SA, is not who one would imagine a stereotypical member of Grain SA would be. In fact, he is a man who represents an organisation that understands the need for co-operation between commercial farmers, rural developing farmers, the government and the private sector in order to secure a future for the South African nation.

His father, Jan Steytler, was involved in politics and well known in the apartheid era as a voice against the regime. He was also a doctor. “My father gave his entire professional career and his life to the voice of reason, non-racism and justice for all. It has served us and held us in good stead because we have learnt from his example how to project ourselves and conduct ourselves in the non-racial society that we now have in South Africa”.

“He understood the aspirations of normal people, because he came from the agricultural community in which he was subjected to the hardships that were endured by both the Afrikaaners and English speaking South Africans and our black countrymen in the rural areas. This definitely played a huge role in his way of thinking about justice equality and human dignity.”

As a child growing up, Louw’s father instilled in his children the same values he lived every day of his life. These values are what Louw and his family hold so dear. “It was an absolute pleasure to grow up in that environment because it simply enhanced our ability to engage in this new free society that we now have.”

Lost opportunities

Despite his progressive upbringing, and despite how South Africa was born into democracy nearly 20 years ago, Louw is deeply disappointed about the levels of corruption that afflict our society.

“I am gravely concerned at the level of racism that is practiced in South Africa and I just appeal to the voice of reason, because the voice of reason is held by all kinds of South Africans over the colour line and the culture line. I maintain that the majority of us are still reasonable people. These reasonable people will determine the future of South Africa.”

The principles that Louw’s father instilled in him and his family, he has managed to translate into the work that he does.

Ten years ago, Louw Steytler was appointed president at Free State Agriculture where he used democracy as a foundation.

“We instilled constitutional economic argument as the premise of departure within the greater debate.

“This is something that has stood us in good stead and, in actual fact, has been an example to other institutions within the ambit of organised agriculture,” he says.

His position as chairperson of Grain SA was based on his values and the principles that his father instilled in him.

“My chairmanship of Grain SA was determined by the membership on a democratic basis and they chose to elect the ‘verligte’. I speak three languages and I committed totally and utterly to the future of South Africa. We serve to uphold the Constitution.”

Question is, what about the those who aren’t as embracing of the ‘New South Africa’?

“Even those individuals understand that we need to negotiate, that we need a premise of departure other than race in itself. In my opinion, we have influenced the opinions of those people and black farmers have been attracted to the philosophy,“ he says.

But there will be marked differences between new farmers and commercial ones according to Louw

“There will always be a clash, but as long as adhere to the principles that are set up in the Constitution I think we can find common ground to go forward”.

The biggest problem Grain SA is facing, is the lack of partnership with the South African government.

“The relationship between the government and Grain SA is based to an extent on mistrust due to our historical past, which we are simply now by virtue of the mannersism of our argument and the way that we conduct ourselves within the greater civil society will be changed.”

What Grain SA needs and wants is to partner with the government to ensure food security for all people, through job creation and skills development.

“What we need, is for people within the confines of government to take the same stances that we have taken and to engage with Grain SA so we can change the very philosophies and historical differences we have inherited,” says Steytler.

Unfortunately, the amount of time it has taken to get to this point – while working towards a better future – is going to take more time than South Africa has.

“It’s not happening fast enough because the mistrust is so deeply ingrained, its going to take a massive effort to change that. Those perceptions will go and what we are all looking for is the voice of reason where both the Constitution and economics will prevail.”

To import grains from other countries is far too costly, and seemingly a waste of resources when we are not utliising our own efficiently.

“The world deals with food insecurity, where SA consumers can be fed on the production capacity of countries elsewhere in the world. We need to cherish our own food security, and see to it that we enhance that. We will enhance that by virtue of the fact that we are involved across the colour line with South Africans to enable them to partake in the production capacity of commodity production in South Africa to enhance household food security and food security for our nation.”



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Issue 46


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