Land and agriculture minister Lulama Xingwana had Canegrowersofficials scurrying to implement damage control recently after she mistakenly accused the organisation of carrying out transformation within its management structures too slowly, especially with regard to the appointment of women.
Ironically, Xingwana was speaking at a Female Farmer Network function hosted by Canegrowers – the representative organisation of all SA sugarcane farmers – at its Mount Edgecombe, KZN headquarters. It was called to provide female sugarcane farmers the opportunity to network among themselves and other sugar industry role-players, to improve their role in agriculture and their respective local economies.
Digressing from her officially prepared speech, the minister told delegates, “It is disappointing to note that the Canegrowers association’s leadership is still mostly male and white after 13 years of democracy. There is still lots of work for Canegrowers to do regarding transformation. Canegrowers must aim to have 30% women representation on its board, and 40% women representation in its top management structures by the end of 2007.”
Canegrowers representatives were shocked to hear Xingwana’s comments, and quickly explained the correct situation to the media after the function. “We believe that minister Xingwana made these comments in error because we were not specific in our description of an organogram that was included in one of our presentations during the Female Farmer function. The minister had not been briefed on sugar industry structures,” said Canegrowers spokesperson Jayne Ferguson. Ferguson said Canegrowers currently had two salaried female directors out of the organisation’s total of five. “We then have a board of directors that comprises 58 directors.
These directors are not staff and are elected from the grassroots as the people whom their fellow growers would like to represent them on the board, which is the policy-making body of Canegrowers,” added Ferguson. S he explained that each member organisation appoints delegates to a Local Grower Council, which in turn appoints members to the organisation’s board. “Of the 58 directors, three are women, and 50% represent sugarcane farmers from the Indian and black communities
.” Canegrowers acknowledged the need to have more women on the board, and added the Female Farmer Network was a start in getting female farmers to focus on the leadership roles they could become involved in. Ferguson said Canegrowers would invite Xingwana on an official sugar industry visit to explain the various structures. – Lloyd Phillips