Eish, guys – watch what you say (in public)!

To invest or not to invest… The jackal was really let loose following Agri SA vice-president Theo de Jager’s recent remarks about farmers investing in agriculture. Or, rather, not investing.

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A lot of people are still very upset by De Jager’s claim that he can’t, in good faith, advise farmers to invest in agriculture given the current land reform policies. He apparently said this to the minister of land reform, Gugile Nkwinti. While you can understand that someone like De Jager can get extremely frustrated in his dealings with government – especially when it comes to land reform – remarks such as this… Eish!

As a high-profile leader he should have been much more careful. I have it on good authority that the reaction to his comments was so strong De Jager was advised not to attend a recent congress of one of Agri SA’s provincial affiliations.

Undercurrents such as these can cause untold harm to any organisation.

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And there’s always an element of disgruntlement in any organisation. But when members and leaders start skinnering about it in public, that’s not good. That’s going to undermine the organisation’s standing – and, yes, even integrity – worse than any criticism from an external source.

And SA agriculture simply can’t afford any public dissent in the ranks. Discussion and debate, yes, but not dissent.

Certain things should be kept ‘in the family’. That’s where you bicker and fight, and express doubts – behind closed doors. But when you emerge you have to stand together! This is not about being ‘underhand’ or ‘secretive’. This how policies are hammered out. Think of how it is in a family. Your brother or sister might drive you up the wall sometimes, but let a stranger say something bad about them, or try to do them harm, and you’re there for them. Am I right?

To paraphrase political analyst Max du Preez: SA’s agriculture sector must at all costs avoid being seen by the public (and government) as having a ‘laager mentality’ and position itself as part of the solution, not the problem.

And one of the ways to achieve this is to present a united front with a clear vision.

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Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.