The African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) has lambasted government for evicting farmers from state-owned land.
In his Easter message to members, AFASA acting president A.J. Mthembu says farmers are anxiety-filled about a number of issues.
This includes “corrupt government officials who continue to steal from and evict our farmers from their farms. They are hell-bent on evicting our black, suffering farmers from the farms that our government has given to them.”
Mthembu’s message follows recent attempts by the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development to evict a Western Cape farmer, Ivan Cloete, from the Colenso farm in Darling.
While Cloete emerged victorious after he took government to task, 39 Mpumalanga farmers are currently facing similar dilemmas.
Furthermore, Mthembu criticised recent incidents in which a high-ranking government official and the police were allegedly involved with stock theft. The Land Bank’s financial woes are also worrisome with Mthembu describing the institution as “our last bastion of hope of developmental finance”.
‘Opportunity to transform and grow’
Despite these, and other challenges, Mthembu believes AFASA has a unique opportunity to transform and grow the agricultural sector.
“The contribution of the black farmer is reported to be less than 4% of the agricultural economy; a dismal performance which requires a concerted effort to make the industry more inclusive.”
This, Mthembu said, happens despite the large government investments in agriculture.
“Clearly, these investments do not reach the intended beneficiaries. AFASA recommits itself to bring about this transformation, a task we will carry out relentlessly,” said Mthembu.
The AFASA acting president said farmers were people of faith.
“This is evidenced by the very nature of our business as we continue to trust merely out of faith that rain will come, our crops will yield and our animals will multiply. Such is the hallmark of faith. It is by the same measure of faith, as we enter this pass over period that we believe that these difficult times shall pass and joy comes in the morning.”
‘Forgive Land Bank’s destroyers’
Mthembu says he prayed for divine intervention “to soften the hardened hearts of people who are holding on to the land and don’t want to share with others, and to bring consciousness to those who continue to steal the livelihood of farmers.”
He also called on the agricultural sector to pray “…to dampen the spirit of hostility of government officials who are hell-bent to evict our black, suffering farmers from the farms that our government has given to them.
“Lastly, to forgive the destroyers of the Land Bank as they have benefited from it and don’t want other farmers to benefit, but give wisdom and courage to those who are making every effort to have the Land Bank back to its original purpose of being a developmental bank.”
Mthembu made reference to AFASA’s recent national executive meeting in which they decided to collaborate with the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC).
He said the NAMC “called us out to take up our rightful place in the national discourse on the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan, a challenge we accept with both arms.”