‘Reform failure isn’t commercial agriculture’s fault’

Land reform is necessary in South Africa, but the fact that it’s bogged down isn’t commercial agriculture’s fault, said Agri Northern Cape president Wessel van der Merwe at the organisation’s congress in Kimberley recently.

The blame lies with the politicians and officials tasked with implementing restitution and who have “messed it up,” he said. “So much corruption and ineptitude, especially on more junior levels, has seldom been encountered. These people should be identified and dismissed.”

Agri SA and its affiliates have offered their assistance, but more often than not, this has been refused, said Van der Merwe. Given the current high levels of incompetence one has to wonder who’ll implement the Green Paper’s new legislation, he added.

On the issue of farmworker abuse, Van der Merwe reiterated that his organisation was opposed to the exploitation of workers. “But we’re also sick of certain parties depicting farmers as cruel people,” he said. “Accusations that commercial farmers mistreat their workers reflect badly on the labour department. Why don’t they do their job and charge these farmers?

“Agri SA members who walked out of the farmworkers’ summit didn’t walk out on the employees – they walked out on politicians and labour unions depicting all farmers as cruel human-rights offenders.”