South Africa’s agricultural community is reeling in shock after the news that farmer, gender activist and president of the African Farmers’ Association (Afasa), Dr Vuyo Mahlati, has died.
Moments ago, the news of her death was confirmed to Food For Mzansi’s Duncan Masiwa by Afasa’s chairperson, Neo Masithela. While details about Mahlati’s death is still unfolding, Masithela said that she passed away earlier this morning.
Last year, Mahlati served as the chairperson of pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s land reform and agriculture advisory panel. Also, she was a member of Mzansi’s National Planning Commission, and the owner of Africa’s first indigenous wool processing plant in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape.
As a fearless social entrepreneur, she also previously served as the global director of the International Women’s Forum. Mahlati held a PhD from Stellenbosch University. Her thesis focused on the role of value chains in mainstreaming rural entrepreneurs into global markets.
Sinesipho Tom reports that Agri SA’s president, Christo van der Rheede, was extremely shocked by the news of Mahlati’s death. Van der Rheede, who is currently meeting with the Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, tells Food For Mzansi, “We really want to extend our deepest sympathies to her family. This is a great loss for them, Afasa as well as the broader agriculture sector and the country. At Agri SA we really share the pain and the loss with everyone.”
Van der Rheede believes Mahlati made a tremendous contribution to Mzansi and the agricultural sector. “Under her leadership Afasa really went from strength to strength and she will sorely be missed. She also played an instrumental role in the national development plan as well. It is great shock to learn that she is now gone.”
Constitutional law expert prof. Elmien du Plessis tells Ivor Price that she first met Mahlati when she was invited to address Ramaphosa’s panel.
She says, “She was always courteous and made a genuine effort to greet you and ask how you were. During various discussions, it was clear that she had a drive to ensure that black farmers gain access to land and entry to the value chains. She was a dynamic person, and her passing leaves a gap in the agricultural landscape.”
- This is a developing story and Food For Mzansi. Stay tuned to Food For Mzansi for the latest information.