Problems can be opportunities – former ANC MP

When it comes to the National Wool Growers Association’s (NWGA) role in reconciliation, economic empowerment and nation building, problems must be resolved through co-operation and changed into opportunities, said Dr Manie Schoeman, Eastern Cape NWGA member and former ANC MP.

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Positive interaction between the NWGA and the Eastern Cape government since 1994 had led to better, more practical co-operation with the national and provincial departments of agriculture, added Schoeman, who was speaking at the EC NWGA’s Cradock congress.

“Obviously, there were, and are, frustrations and differences, but as long as there are no hidden agendas and the main purpose is to advance the wool industry in all its facets to the benefit of all, problems can, and will, be sorted out.” Schoeman said fair access to the country’s resources is essential and those who were discriminated against in the past have a right to receive preferential treatment in this process. However, this doesn’t mean limited resources, such as land, water and minerals, should be squandered.

“It means that those who are being favoured should first be evaluated to establish if they have the potential and ability to use it successfully,” explained Schoeman. “I’m still of the opinion that prospective farmers should be identified and evaluated on a district basis, before any land is bought.”

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The government should have the right to reserve an option to acquire a specific piece of land at the same price in every normal transaction, he continued. “This means that the government is not an active bidder or buyer and that the principle of willing-buyer, willing-seller does not come into play.”

Schoeman said the NWGA’s contribution to the economic empowerment of rural households is impressive, with its contribution to household income here improving from 47% in 2004 to 65% in 2009, while the number of children who go to bed hungry at night dropped from 43,1% to 27,3% in 2009.