Rest in pieces 2O15

At the end of every year, most of us are naturally drawn to reflection. This habit is encouraged by news-carrying media, which often focus on the stories that made headlines during the year.

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I’m usually an avid reader of these reviews, which look at the highlights and low points of the year. This year, however, I may give them a skip: a review of 2015 is bound to be a depressing read.

The drought alone is enough to dampen anyone’s Christmas cheer, while a closer look at the country’s economic and political state may have you pass over the festivities altogether.

Everyone is worried about the direction in which South Africa is heading, as was indicated by the consistent drop in the Agbiz IDC Agribusiness Confidence Index during the past year.

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Every time I hear of another of President Jacob Zuma’s exploits, I think he cannot stoop any lower, only to see him outdo himself the very next day. It’s hard to believe that one individual can run a country into the ground as he is doing.

But is he really the sole architect of our predicament? Why was former president Thabo Mbeki ousted when he didn’t toe the party line, yet Zuma seem to be untouchable?

How much longer before either the ANC or South African citizens put a stop to this farce? People are talking about withholding their taxes in protest over the way the country is being run, and service delivery protests are so frequent nowadays that they scarcely raise an eyebrow.

Yet, Zuma thinks he can placate discontented citizens with political rhetoric and empty promises of economic transformation. How do you transfer economic power when the economy has almost ground to a halt?

A few weeks ago, I surmised that ‘this too shall pass’. I simply have to believe that things will get better even if they first have to get worse.

The farmers featured in Farmer’s Weekly during the course of the year would not have invested in their businesses if they had no hope for a better future. They aren’t blind to the challenges but by taking control of those aspects of their operations that they can control, they are at least ensuring they have a fighting chance.

Lindi Stroebel of Agbiz is of the opinion that farmers are diversifying their businesses so that they are able to participate in global value chains, thereby cushioning themselves against South Africa’s economic troubles. Perhaps this is the solution for the entire agricultural industry. Countries such as China and India are doing just that by setting up food production operations in Africa.

SA producers have a distinct advantage when it comes to African conditions. Businesses such as Shoprite and Woolworths have already shown that expanding operations into Africa can be done successfully.

So yes, there is still much that can be done before we give up hope. But we need to ask ourselves what we can do to make 2016 a better year than 2015.