To eat or not to eat?

Avoiding a Day Zero for food

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In his presidential address during the TAU SA annual congress, with the theme “Day Zero for food on the table”, Mr Louis Meintjes said the following:

“Day Zero for food on the table — this clearly is a tough theme which can certainly evoke negative reactions. Working with developments which are continually unfolding in South Africa means this scenario is not too far-fetched. Should government not have a change of heart, then this may well become a reality. Day Zero could well become a certainty if a rapid reality check is not forthcoming from government very soon. Concern exists that should the ANC’s internal differences continue, a leader may well emerge but the question is — to what extent will this leader enjoy real support? The rate at which the wheels come off under the ANC’s leadership creates more and more misgivings about the future.”

The position of the ANC, bearing in mind what has been stated to date, cannot just be regarded as simply a negative outlook. It has the potential of becoming reality. With unemployment and poverty increasing each year, it is perhaps time that responsible citizens unite and define what the principles guiding the economy and the national interest should be to ensure stability and growth.

Currently the self-serving interests of the governing political elite clearly receive priority above that and the general wellbeing of the country and its citizens. Under such circumstances it is difficult, if not impossible, to strive for and contribute to create a better life for all. It cannot be emphasized enough that the government’s role should be to ensure a safe environment for citizens and to create a climate which will attract investors who wish to get involved because they respect and trust the policies and direction in which the country is heading. However, the reality is that on both those issues the ANC government fails miserably… and still people vote for them!

By continuing to remain silent we could end up being mutually responsible for undesired outcomes. Our silence actually condones what is being said and done.

It is therefore of utmost importance that all role players should analyse what the ANC is blatantly stating in its policy documents. Such documentation constitutes the very core of exactly what is driving the National Democratic Revolution and what they eventually wish to achieve. The price of our naivety and lack of insight in these matters will be very high — maybe too high when efforts will belatedly be made to correct matters when it is too late.

Food on the table is an important and crucial issue. Unfortunately we are already aware that many in South Africa go to sleep at night without having had a balanced meal. The result is that people not sustained by a healthy diet during their formative years will become victims of “stunting” from which they can rarely recover. The only way in which this situation can be rectified is to be able to produce enough healthy and good quality food at affordable prices. With more than 70% of South Africa’s population already urbanised, it goes without saying that productive commercial farmers should be cherished as one of the country’s major assets.

Throughout the world it is common knowledge that South Africa’s agricultural potential is marginal and to be effective it will not only a question of owning land but also inculcating the special qualities and knowledge required by farmers who also have to accept the responsibility for what it takes to produce food commercially and on a scale which makes financial sense. Furthermore, the utilisation of technology, developing the necessary skills which are freely available, is crucial. Added to this and perhaps most important is living the passion to be a farmer.

A survey by the South African Institute of Race Relations indicated that the following are important aspects to SA citizens and which therefore demand attention:

  • Economic growth
  • Job creation
  • Service delivery
  • Health care
  • Corruption
  • Housing
  • Violence and crime

The government however chooses to make expropriation of land without compensation their priority. In the process a deluge of unmanageable expectations was created whilst the risk for potential investors remains too high. At the end it will also be a too high price for the country to pay.

It is quite clear that the government is convinced that not elevating the land question above all other essentials will result in lost political support. However this issue is complicated by the fact that:

  • Their point of departure consists to a large extent of lies and distortions. TAU SA for example states unequivocally that none of its members stole their land. This is confirmed by the existence of legitimate title deeds which are respected by the state and financial institutions.
  • During the approach to the new dispensation in 1993, a negotiated settlement was reached. The result of that settlement was the Constitution of South Africa. It was agreed that the future would be based on what was set out in the constitution. Current efforts to amend the constitution and claiming that land was stolen are a direct manifestation of the lack of integrity of the ANC. It is now deviating from the negotiated Constitutional settlement.

The government has had ample opportunity to provide access to land to black people during the normal course of business activity. This deficiency must be laid squarely at the feet of the ruling party. Project after project has failed dismally. Throughout the country the remnants of once successful agricultural enterprises litter the landscape. Millions of Rand were invested in such farms and businesses, whilst in some cases such investments were recapitalised.

Five years ago TAU SA made a proposal to ASUF that if we wish to save agriculture from the ideology-driven road to failure, a strategy for agricultural sustainability should be introduced by utilising the existing expertise within the sector. Recently other role players undertook to become involved and TAU SA will ensure that its principles are tabled for consideration in order to produce a joint working document.

If we are not honest with ourselves, we are wasting time. What should be done in these circumstances?

Responsible role players should strongly oppose this policy of expropriation without compensation and initiate different actions to protect the principle of private ownership. In the process we must pursue sustainability. In this regard there are many role players who understand the current situation and know what the essentials should be that our country need to get the much needed economic growth. At this stage we need role players that are principle driven and have at heart only the interests and well-being of the country at large but also the citizens in particular to bring sense to the table. Then we can say at the end — yes we can eat!

Bennie van Zyl, General Manager, TAU SA

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