It is clear that Leshilo is not adequately informed about the various issues in agriculture. His views on land reform, transformation and farm attacks leave one with a feeling of unease.
It is unfortunate that a popular perception exists that all farmers are financially well off, represent the oppressive face of South Africa’s white population, and that they deserve what comes their way in terms of restitution and criminal retribution.
This image is promoted by the media and politicians for political ends. Leshilo suggests that farmers must improve their image through the black press. We are doing it by feeding the nation and stabilising the rural areas. The media does not want positive stories, and as far as transformation is concerned, farmers have contributed enough. We are not going to give in to the ANC’s political demands for land redistribution when in fact it amounts to sabotaging our national food economy.
The need for increased food production, due to population growth and the greater regional dependency on SA’s produce, emphasises the importance of sustaining the sector. Agriculture’s importance, in terms of output, far outweighs its contribution to the GNP.
The urban population needs food and it is highly questionable whether small-scale farmers will be able to feed the nation. Transforming agriculture means having productive, trained and skilled emerging farmers, not taking away from existing producing units.
Therefore, a call for transfer of land is not the way to go. In Mpumalanga, 469 000ha were transferred through various processes, but very little of that land is producing optimally.
Leshilo is right to say that we want successful black farmers. I have yet to meet a white commercial farmer who does not want that as well. But we will not keep silent about reckless land redistribution when it brings hunger and misery to our people.
The uncertainty created by land restitution policies and developments act as a serious constraint to commercial farmers reinvesting in their land.
Leshilo refers to crime and attacks on farms and how it is hijacked by groups who are not representing farmers’ interests. On this issue he is far off the mark and displays ignorance about what is really happening. The groups referred to, make a noise about farm attacks because no one else does. Everyone, from the media and academics to the SAPS, does their best to downplay the issue and very few of these criminals are ever successfully prosecuted. The often-ignored crime of arson, which results in loss of life, livestock, fodder and buildings, is also increasingly developing into a serious problem.
Despite assurances from various political and security quarters that the matter is receiving proper attention, the crimes continue unabated.
Unless crime levels are brought down to acceptable norms, SA will be faced with reduced food production, loss of jobs, growing polarisation and social disintegration.
The article by Thabo Leshilo (23 August), head of communications for Agang, refers.
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