It was indeed heartening to receive such a level of support after our recent open letter to ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe. The purpose of the letter was to confront Mr Mantashe with a set of facts and points of view. We made it quite clear that we farmers are here to stay and are drawing a line in the sand making it quite clear that we will not be bullied into submission.
It is therefore heartening that our views were considered to be fair and that other farmers were more than willing to draw that line in the sand – should it be necessary. As farmers, we will have to make specific decisions. It is against this backdrop that I now address this open letter to all commercial farmers in the country.
I do not deem it necessary to list all the threats and challenges that we face. However, it is quite clear that the most serious threat stems from within government circles, and it is specifically directed at making agriculture and property rights useful toys in order to achieve populist support.
The policy proposals that have been decided upon or have already been encapsulated in legislation are entirely socialistic in character and in direct conflict with free- market principles.
False accusations against farmers
At the same time, psychological war is being waged against us. We are falsely accused of acquiring ownership of land by devious means, and that we in fact stole the land. We need to unite in rejecting such accusations with the contempt they deserve. We must not allow ourselves to be put into a state of accusation and blame.
It seems that all and sundry wish to prescribe to us what we should do with our land, and how our employees should be advantaged while no other sectors of the economy, even those that are larger, are expected to do the same. Should we dare to express our convictions, we are shouted down and stereotyped as racists, colonialists or longing for a return to apartheid.
In contrast, the governing party and its allies in the tripartite alliance have succeeded in hiding behind concepts which on face value seem laudable, but which in practice have resulted in economic and social catastrophe. Affirmative action and empowerment have resulted in shameful failures visible everywhere around us. ‘Transformation’ for example, is nothing less than a revolutionary about-turn from the existing order to ensure a political outcome. Like other similar government policies, it is destined for failure.
Our core principles
As farmers, we need to unite around a set of principles and values. TAU SA believes that these should include the following:
The free market should serve as a basis for economic activity to ensure growth, without which greater unemployment, poverty and suffering will result. Private ownership is non-negotiable. It forms the basis for savings and investments, which are needed for the economy to flourish.
Entrepreneurship should be encouraged rather than smothered under laws, regulations and prescriptions. Proper education and efficient training facilities are required to produce a skilled and capable labour market. The safety and security of producers of food and fibre is a non-negotiable responsibility of the state, requiring competent personnel free from corruption and criminal involvement.
A stable policy environment is crucial for promoting peace of mind within the agricultural community, and trust within the ranks of investors.
Serious doubts about policies
We shall have to consider whether the following deserve our support in the light of recent events:
Affirmative action: This policy needs to be revisited. After 20 years, it has become evident that favouritism and cadre deployment have resulted in incapable people being appointed, causing a brain drain of expertise.
Black economic empowerment: This in itself is a concept designed to legalise racist favouritism without any due consideration for expertise or ability, and which does not contribute to sustainability.
Transformation: This is defined in the dictionary as “metamorphosis, alteration, transfiguration”. Do we really want to participate in changing a form of agriculture that has fed generations of people successfully? Why should we want to participate in changing something which has been successful in meeting the requirements of sustainability?
We should draw our line in the sand by:
- Stating categorically that we did not steal our land;
- Refusing to tolerate accusations that we maltreat our loyal and essential labour force;
- Refraining from unquestioning belief and acceptance of government propaganda;
- Demanding that the principles and values listed above be accepted and applied in the interest of food security, safety and security, stability and economic prosperity and growth;
- Refusing to be drawn into participation in failed, failing or doomed government projects;
- Continuing to farm and produce food and fibre while paying less attention to socialist rhetoric.
That we are still farming is not because of, but in spite of, government. Our call to all farmers is to continue, knowing well that we receive the energy and grace to do so from our Heavenly Father, who also provides the rain in time to enable us to continue as farmers.
We also call on all farmers to join forces with organised agriculture. We may not be many, but our economic contribution to South Africa is crucial. Let us fill the agriculture basket to the brim through our involvement, thereby enabling us to serve your interests as well as those of the country, to the best of our ability!
Yours in the interests of all our farmers.
Louis Meintjies, President: TAU SA.