Keep your eyes on the future

This time last year, large parts of South Africa were experiencing a drought said to be the worst in living memory.

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Farmers were selling off livestock that never recovered condition after the winter, and those maize farmers who were able to plant were watching their crops wither before their eyes.

                      Follow Farmer’s Weekly SA’s board North West Drought conditions on Pinterest.

Days were spent studying long-term weather forecast websites on the Internet or scanning the skyline for any rain clouds. This year, people are worried about the state of the economy. Rolling blackouts and reports of inept or untruthful public officials only serve to dampen confidence in our ability to dig ourselves out of the hole we are in.

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According to President Jacob Zuma, apartheid is to blame for our power woes and lacklustre economy. I’m not sure how
apartheid can be blamed for Eskom not increasing its capacity in time, despite repeated calls to do so, even before the 2008 blackouts. However, if only it were as simple as finding a single culprit for the state of our economy.

The low productivity level of the labour force cannot be remedied without first addressing our education system. You cannot talk about the high cost of doing business in South Africa without mentioning the state of the transport system, or vast amount of money wasted on red tape.

In addition, the Auditor General’s (AG) report on national and provincial governments and public entities’ audits, released late last year, highlighted just how careless government was with taxpayers’ money. In the 2012/2013 financial year, the AG reported R25 billion in unauthorised, irregular and wasteful expenditure. In the 2013/2014 financial year, this figure increased to R62,7 billion.

The Daily Maverick reported the AG as saying that “there are accountants [in the departments] who cannot produce financial statements because they do not know how.” It should therefore come as no surprise that they cannot keep track of spending. To repeat, however: there is no single solution for fixing the economy. Criticising the honest efforts of others will not help, nor will wallowing in despair.

Those drought-ravaged farmers certainly didn’t. Instead they made plans, tightened their belts and lived and worked with hope in their hearts. And in late January the skies opened. There will always be crises, whether natural or manmade, but it’s how we manage them that determines whether we’ll still be here when the rain comes. 

When you talk to some of the country’s top farmers, you realise that they don’t have time to be depressed about circumstances they cannot directly influence. With their eyes on the future, they focus instead on what they can change.

With the good rains we have received thus far, there is luckily much our farmers can do.