Forget about the international economic meltdown, the inequalities of the past and or the beautiful pie in the sky dreams of the politicians — the one thing that is holding South Africa back now is a lack of common sense.

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I mean really, does it not make sense to keep the county’s infrastructure in good repair? Driving from Wolmaranstad to Schweizer Reneke the other day, dodging potholes that can virtually hide a hippo, I wondered if the powers that are and those that want to be ever drive on these atrocious roads?

Do they not see that it is causing damage to the economy, to agriculture and to my poor battered vehicle? And mind you, this road is but one of the thousands of provincial and secondary roads that are left to go to rack and ruin. It is no small wonder that Agri North West decided to take the North West Government to court to force them to repair the roads.

That is where my common sense philosophy comes in. I’m no engineer but it is plain common sense that it would have cost a lot less money to keep a road in good order than to rebuild it virtually from scratch. But building a road is no straightforward affair anymore. There is the problem with the issuing of tenders….tenderpreneurship is seemingly alive and well.

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Let’s take the Free State, for instance. The locals were abuzz earlier this year when it came to light that contracts of nearly R4 million were awarded to friends of politicians and officials for road reparation. The catch is that these contracts were awarded “verbally” and that not a single rule and regulation for the award of tenders had been adhered to, according to the Free State MEC for police, roads and transport Butana Komphela himself. Does not make sense, does it?

I’m also concerned about the lack of common sense closer to home. When will the commercial agricultural sector realise that it is essential to communicate with their consumers? I can for the life of me not understand why bodies such as Grain SA and Agri SA is so reluctant to come in closer contact with the people who actual buy agriculttural products.

It is good and well to promote commercial agriculture amongst the decision makers in government, but a simple and clear marketing campaign aimed at the end consumer will go a hell of a long way to create goodwill for and a better understanding of the South African commercial farmer. Let’s face it, how many of the thousands upon thousands of urbanised consumers really know where and how food is produced? And what it would cost them if the very same food is imported from elsewhere? Please guys, make use of this golden opportunity. It makes sense.

O dear Lord, we are at the advent of the congress season again. Please help us! How little common sense does it take to realise it is vastly more important to get speakers the congress delegates will learn from than the ones they like to hear? It is of no use to get speakers that agrees with you – rather get people who challenges your standpoints and ideas, people who will stimulate your organisation to re-evaluate its core values and relevancy in South Africa today.

Anyway, I am concerned about the lack of participation from the floor at the modern day agricultural congresses. It rather seems like a series of lectures – and that does not make a lot of sense, in my mind. I still remember the fiery Nampo and provincial agricultural unions’ congresses of the past — but the delegates at least participated and aired their views. Very unlike the well ordered and strictly regimented affairs of today. I’ve often wondered which makes the most sense?

And in closing, please beware of the ever present motivational speakers at the congresses! Oi vey, if a motivational speaker is good, he or she is good, but there is no such thing as a mediocre motivational speaker. So please be very carefull. Make sure that the motivational speaker, if you feel an overwhelming urge to have one at your congress, has a lot of common sense.

Till next time, Annelie Coleman.

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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.