‘World in Union’ includes farming

Prof Willie Esterhuyse argues that agriculture must find a new way of communicating with politicians. They need to prove their worth to the country and build solid relationships with agricultural bureaucrats.
Issue date 2 November 2007

- Advertisement -

Agricultural roleplayers need to learn how to effectively communicate and deal with political leaders. The industry is no longer one of SA’s top three priorities and it’s unlikely that it will be restored to such a position in the near future. E xpecting President Mbeki to give us a week of his time to address disputes with the agriculture minister is unreasonable as he is struggling to survive in our current heated political environment. Agriculture also needs to see politicians’ behaviour for what it is. Deputy minister Dirk du Toit’s recent counsel that farmers who illegally evict their workers should be expropriated is an example of the desperate measures politicians will take to secure their position. Change the tune, sing in harmony I nstead of running to the media screaming and shouting, the industry should devise a strategy to constructively deal with these onslaughts. A vital part of this strategy would be to strengthen our relationships and networks with government. Agriculture must also establish relationships with government bureaucrats who will take over posts when their political leaders are replaced.

This is imperative as these officials will eventually determine new policies and the sustainability of the agricultural industry. Agriculture must also be aware of what is happening in the political arena: we need to know who are the most likely candidates for succession and we must establish relationships with these candidates before they are elected. Another important strategy is to change the way government is approached. Pleading for new policies to protect agriculture won’t help unless the industry can prove its benefit to the country. More emphasis should therefore be placed on agriculture’s role in contributing to social cohesion, reducing poverty, creating new employment opportunities and social-capital development. S howing government what agriculture can do to reduce poverty could result in it being raised to a higher priority on the political agenda. This would occur because of an increased awareness that the industry can contribute to social, political and financial stability.

Agriculture in black and white Agriculture should be aware of the fragility of racial relationships in and especially in the agricultural industry. It therefore has to proactively foster healthy racial relationships among all roleplayers and has to communicate its disapproval of any racist behaviour. T he industry could play a big reconciliatory role as the welfare and destiny of various races depend on the welfare of other races. Farmers need farmworkers to remain sustainable and emerging farmers need commercial farmers to contribute to their success. he success of BEE will also have a huge impact on the future of white commercial farmers who need to acknowledge that BEE is here to stay. My father used to say, “If it doesn’t rain, you have to make other plans.” This means you have to adapt production to maintain sustainability.

- Advertisement -

The same approach should be taken with BEE – if you want to remain sustainable, you will have to adapt production. t’s important to note that the new political environment not only brought with it new opportunities, but also attracted many negative elements, such as people who abuse the system for selfish gain. Weeding out corruption A’s political leaders need to be disciplined and firm in their management of corruption. It is true that the changing political environment has led to uncertainty of whether SA would be able to maintain financial stability, and this in turn has had a negative impact on foreign investment. am optimistic that we will be able to deal with these challenges, but think it might take a little longer to address than anticipated. he financial aspect of our new policy environment is sound as we have some of the best financial services in the world.

However, farmers not only need the skill and ability to create good banking relationships – today they also need to create sustainable institutions. his only emphasises how important it is that the industry is united. We need to speak with one voice and stop singing like a false choir – each in their own tune and own agenda – if we want to pull muscle and change things. his will be an enormous task because it means that we will have to look beyond our specific needs – beyond what is happening on our farms and how the policy environment is affecting our products. It means we have to stand together to find solutions for the industry and all roleplayers involved. – Glenneis Erasmus |fw