Emotions ran high in parliament following the budget vote speech of Lulama Xingwana, agriculture and land affairs minister, with Pieter Groenewald from the Freedom Front Plus going as far as calling the minister an enemy of the farmers.
This was in spite of support for the budget from most parties. “The minister only thinks of the emotions of those people who are not farming – but what about the emotions of farmers, the people who work hard to help ensure the food security of this country?” Groenewald asked. He also referred to various incidents where the minister falsely accused farmers in public of bad or inhumane treatment of their workers. “It is time that the minister takes up her position as minister of agriculture and renounce her role as the ‘minister’ of revolution,” he said.
Maans Nel from the Democratic Alliance raised his concerns that commercial farmers who are supportive of BEE and land reform should not be restricted from contributing to these processes, nor should they be ignored. “It seems that some government officials want to punish commercial farmers for what happened during apartheid,” he said. However, Dirk du Toit, deputy minister of agriculture, pointed out that parties should recognise that the department is taking a developmental perspective to problems in South Africa. “Land acquisition and agricultural empowerment is seen as one of the most valuable tools for poverty reduction in South Africa, but more specifically in rural areas. To make land reform a success, government will need more support from those who have already received much support,” Du Toit said, referring to commercial farmers who in the past received support from government. Agricultural Business Chamber CEO Tobias Doyer told Farmer’s Weekly that Du Toit is correct that commercial agriculture has a different view of the problems and challenges to the industry from government. Doyer added, however, that agriculture is like a large house with many facets – neglect of any facet will have a negative impact on other facets.
“We need a strong commercial sector not only for food and job security, but also to empower and help emerging farmers become commercial,” he said. The agriculture minister’s closing address was, however, seen in a more favourable light. “Poverty is currently one of the largest problems in SA. Commercial farmers play a huge role in creating employment and food security in the country. The department will therefore take steps to ensure that the sector will still be able to fulfil this role by 2010 and help to create more export opportunities,” Xingwana said. – Glenneis Erasmus