The African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) has announced the resignation of its chairperson in the Western Cape, Elton Jefthas. This follows several weeks of rumours that Afasa leadership in the Western Cape would step down for reasons unknown.
Afasa’s newly-elected CEO, Thandeka Mbassa, confirmed Jefthas’ resignation to Food For Mzansi in an exclusive interview. Jefthas, she said, issued a letter of resignation in which he cites slow transformation, and a lack resources and time as key reasons for him stepping down as Afasa chair in the Western Cape. He added that space should be given to younger people to take the organisation forward.
Mbassa agreed with this and said that out of all the nine provinces, the Western Cape is always lagging behind when it comes to Afasa programmes.
“A decision was taken in our last AGM that leadership should be represented in terms of gender [and] young people and women should feature… [Also] if you look at agriculture in the Western Cape, it is serious agriculture. Those commodities – wine, fruits etc – are still in the hands of the few. Their (Afasa members) challenges would be how they can penetrate the market and get their voices to be heard,” Mbassa said.
Food For Mzansi reached out to Jephtas about his resignation and he declined to comment at the time.
Jefthas is a director and co-founder of the De Fynne Wholesale Nursery that produces blueberries, apples, and ornamental plants for the agriculture and landscaping industry. De Fynne also farms 17 hectares of plums that are exported to the EU. He is also the managing director of Agribusiness in Sustainable African Plant Products (ASNAPP) and has over 20 years’ experience in the agricultural sector in lobbying and managing grant funding.
Issues in the Western Cape
Meanwhile, rumours that the entire Western Cape Afasa leadership has stepped down have also emerged. When asked about this, Mbassa said so far only Jephtas had handed in a resignation letter.
“They are still part of Afasa and they can support programmes of Afasa even if they are not part of leadership,” Mbassa explained.
She added that the organisation would provide the province the necessary support in electing new leadership and making sure that it is constitutional.
“We are looking forward to having young people revive the province because they have really been battling.”
While it is not clear whether Jephtas will stay on until new leadership in the province is elected, Mbassa said the organisation would try and persuade Jephtas to officially hand over to whoever succeeds him.
Mbassa says the Western Cape is reportedly faced by challenges of transformation, although not unique to the province alone.
Key objectives of Afasa include ensuring transformation and growth within the agricultural sector; facilitating the development of competencies of black farmers in order for them to participate meaningfully in formal and informal markets; and mobilising resources for the benefit of farmers, to name a few.
However, delivering on these objectives has proven to be a bit of challenge for their organisation, Mbassa said.
“The only resources that Afasa can rely on is from government and sponsors. We are currently working with government to see how it can be of assistance when it comes to financing Afasa programmes,” she said.
Afasa getting its act together…
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Afasa finds itself in troubled waters. The most recent incident that saw several commodity groups announcing their resignation from Afasa due to a “lack of recognition and frustration”, raised serious questions about the future of the organisation.
“We are trying to address that. If you look at the last ten years that Afasa has been in the space; the kind of challenges that it has had are normal for an organisation like [ours],” Mbassa said.
“Despite all those challenges, Afasa has always managed to emerge as a brand that is recognised by government and other stakeholders. Not because it has done so well and implemented programmes, but because of what it stands for, [which is] developing black farmers and inclusive growth in the sector.”
Mbassa added that as an organisation they were getting their act together and working towards building capacity, and delivering on their mandate.
“We have no reason to doubt that we are on the right track. The issues that we have with the commodities, those are being resolved. We are going to find a way of working on those issues with all the key role-players,” she said.
- This is a developing story. Stay tuned to Food For Mzansi for the latest developments.
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