TAU SA and the reality of farming in Africa

On 12 and 13 September TAU SA held its biggest congress ever at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria, on the topic of food security within Africa.
Issue date: 28 September 2007

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On 12 and 13 September TAU SA held its biggest congress ever at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria, on the topic of food security within Africa. Farmers and other agricultural role-players from around South Africa attended. Highlighting the challenges facing commercial agriculture in no uncertain terms, the organisation’s leadership urged its members to remain positive. Jasper Raats reports.

In his opening address to the TAU SA annual congress, union president Paul van der Walt articulated the religious faithfulness of the congress goers, which became an underlying theme throughout the congress, when he expressed his humble gratitude to his Creator and Saviour. And despite the challenging agricultural conditions in South Africa, Van der Walt has much to be grateful for.

He proudly announced that TAU SA’s membership numbers were constantly increasing while the number of commercial farmers in the country was on the decline. “This is testimony to the fact that our agenda is addressing the right issues for the time in which agriculture finds itself, and that we are attempting to position agriculture correctly to meet the challenges of the day,” he said.

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Referring to the theme of this year’s conference, food security in Africa, Van der Walt warned that the dominant views within the continent were impacting severely on agriculture. “When governments overemphasise ideology at the expense of economy, the Zimbabwe model becomes a growing reality,” he said. e also raised his concerns that the restitution process was not transparent enough, with claims being “steamrolled” through and government constantly threatening expropriation. Talking directly to chief land claims commissioner Tozi Gwanya, who attended the congress, Van der Walt once again invited the commission to put all the claims on the table, so that farmers and claimants could give input to help establish the validity of claims before they were gazetted.

On AgriBEE, Van der Walt simply stated that its purpose is to blatantly transfer finance and property to people who had not worked for it. He said it was a matter of government shifting its socioeconomic problems onto the private sector. e expressed his concern over government’s intention to regulate agriculture to the extent that permits and licences would be needed to trade in certain instances. “This could spell the end of the free-market environment,” he warned, adding that industries would have to make sure their sovereignty wasn’t compromised when they applied for import levies.

Uniting against theft
Van der Walt also touched on safety matters, saying diligent patrols by farmers using clearly marked vehicles with green lights had averted many potential farm attacks in certain areas. The unabated attacks on farmers and theft of property remained a cause for concern. G iving a breakdown of livestock lost to theft over the last year, he said cattle to the value of R263 895 000 had been stolen, sheep to the value of R45 725 000 and goats to the value of R18 056 250. These figures do not include recovered animals. When one adds in statistics on losses to general theft on farms, the figure totals to R1 077 176 000 – more than a billion rand stolen from the farming sector. “Farmers must not let themselves by intimidated by law enforcement officers who threaten them when they take action,” said Van der Walt. “Both the president and the minister of Safety and Security have repeatedly stressed that the public should become involved in the fight against crime.” e concluded by saying no one could claim that SA was a land of milk and honey and warned that those living on milk and honey must realise that farmers’ ability to produce it were increasingly under pressure. “It’s equally important for farmers to realise that the gloves are off and that our survival and self-respect are constantly being violated,” he said, “The time has come for us to stand together as one.”