Time to get to work

With reference to the news feature ‘Trevor’s plan for land reform & agriculture’ (31 August pg 18), the pressure is on. The recent Marikana tragedy serves to remind us of the sinister political forces at play.

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Vindictive opportunists, hell-bent on revenge, will stop at nothing to promote their political agendas. Capitalising on the ineffective land transformation process to date is an obvious weapon in the arsenal. Zimbabwe-style land invasions are not beyond the realm of the impossible. The National Development Plan (NDP) is couched in romantic hype and seems too much like an utopian ideal.

Without disciplined financial control and management systems in place, initiatives such as the Makhathini Flats and Umzimvubu River Basin are likely to become yet more troughs of corruption at which the pigs will gorge themselves at the expense of sustainable economic development. I recently did work for an organisation which submitted a proposal to lease a dysfunctional land claim sugar farm from a communal property association (trust).

The proposal was rejected and two months later, the cane has withered in the Mpumalanga Lowveld climate. This is economic sabotage. I have submitted another proposal to lease a large community-owned tropical fruit farm near Tzaneen which is currently in judicial management. In the process of conducting the due diligence investigation and constructing the business plan, I had to check my cash flow workings and the assumptions on which these were based as, according to my calculations, the farm has the potential to generate strong cash flows.

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It’s not magic; just fundamentally sound and disciplined financial and business management systems and practices and good farm husbandry. Most right thinking South Africans want to support the spirit espoused in the NDP. It remains to be seen how many farmers will go as far as voluntarily compensating their neighbours for a 50% loss of market value in the case of expropriation.

But my advice to Minister Manuel is; get your head out of the clouds, feet firmly on the ground, roll up your sleeves and get to work, because the utopian dream will rapidly become a nightmare unless accountabilities and controls are in place.

Read the full article Trevor’s plan for land reform & agriculture.