We don’t want to start a fight, but well-known political analyst Prince Mashele could do with an urgent crash course in agriculture. We’re rather peeved after Mashele reportedly said that most black people aren’t capable of successfully farming commercially in Mzansi.
Netwerk24 reports that Mashele, the co-author of the best-selling book The Fall of the ANC: What Next? shocked festival goers at the Vrystaat Kunstefees with his statements. He said that most black South Africans do not need land.
Futhermore, Mashele said that most of the black South Africans who own land use it for vanity purposes. He used Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa as an example saying, “He has many farms in Mpumalanga. It is mostly for vanity reasons, to check out his cattle on the weekends.”
It’s a myth that black people cannot farm, says Nono Sekhoto, the CEO of GrowthShoot and Youth Chairperson of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa). This myth has been creeping up in many heated debates about land reform.
While it’s true that most of Mzansi’s commercial farmers are white, it certainly is a big fat lie that black people do not have farming experience.
Sekhoto believes the myth exists because there aren’t many successful black large-scale farmers.
Sekhoto believes the myth can only be debunked once the meaningful participation of black farmers in food production is recognised by most South Africans. “There are millions of black people who have been farming and are still farming today. However, in this context their success is benchmarked against white large-scale commercial farmers who got to their current positions through decades of extensive and targeted support from government and the industry at large. Black farmers currently hardly have access to appropriate support. They are a far cry from their white counterparts who are now positioned as successful commercial farmers.”
Mr Mashele, in case you needed some help, here are just five successful commercial farmers who are making us proud. Team Food For Mzansi would be more than happy to show you around. Oh, guess what all of these farmers have in common besides the fact that they’re successful? They’re all black.
Thabo Dithakgwe, SA’s youngest farmer
At 19, he is one of South Africa’s youngest farmers who became a farmer at the age of 13 when his father gifted him a pregnant heifer cow. In 2015, at the age of fourteen, he received his identification livestock certificate from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, enabling Dithakgwe to become a commercial farmer. This young farmer owns 790 hectares of land in Pomfret, North West, a desert town on the edge of the Kalahari Desert.
André Cloete rose from agri-worker to farmer
Cloete vividly remembers the moment when, as a six-year-old son of two farmworkers, he decided that one day he would own his own farm. He was announced as the winner of the Toyota New Harvest of the Year Award in 2016 and built a successful farming business on leased land in Grabouw in the Western Cape. Cloete cultivates a number of apple varieties, including Rosy Glow apples and Peckham pears. Apart from the 38 hectares of apples and 20 hectares of pears, he also keeps 1 000 Dohne Merino sheep and he’s planted 300 hectares of barley and oats.
Thato Moagi, a proud cattle farmer
28-year-old award-winning farmer Thato Moagi is the Managing Director of Legae La Banareng Farms in Modimolle, Limpopo. She was the first South African to receive the acclaimed Nuffield Agricultural Scholarship in 2017. Moagi, who also served on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel on Land Reform, is the majority shareholder of Legae La Banareng Farms which was established in 2014. Their family farm breeds cattle, sheep and goats and they produce indigenous green leafy vegetables. She regards farming as a divine practice and believes farmers have a very strong spiritual connection with who they are, their God, their religion and the land.
Paul Malindi, from taxi boss to farmer
This former taxi business and grocery store owner now owns his own farm, Dankbaar, close to Edenville in the Free State. Through Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme, Malindi learned more than just how to be a commercial farmer. In 2017, Malindi was named the Grain SA Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year. His farming business continues to grow as he carries on with his hard work. Malindi now also rents an additional piece of land for his livestock to graze on as they continue to increase in number.
Busisiwe Molefe, a highly respected vegetable farmer
When Busisiwe Molefe started farming with macadamia nuts, she frequently felt scrutinised and even mocked as a black, female farmer who was new to the sector. She silenced her critics however when she reached international markets in under six years. Molefe co-owns BBS Farm, in Port Shepstone, KwaZulu Natal with Bongi Lushaba and Slindile Zondi. They produce an array of produce like spinach, cabbage, beetroot, brinjals, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce seedlings as well as cooking herbs. It is their farming of macadamia nuts that has made Molefe and her team pioneers in the sector. One of Molefe’s proudest moments in the industry was when she placed third in the Ithala’s Imbokodo Iyazenzela – Women in Business Awards.
Tshilidzi Matshidzula, dynamic cattle farmer
In his 11 years at the helm of a dairy farm, Tshilidzi Matshidzula has grown a herd of 49 cows into a dairy producing up to 16 000 litres of milk a day from nearly 800 cows. Matshidzula is the farmer and manager of Matshibele, a thriving dairy business based in Alexandria in the Eastern Cape. He supplies milk to Shoprite through the Coega Dairy. Matshidzula has won eight awards, the prestigious Mangold Trophy as well as Toyota Young Farmer of the Year (Eastern Cape) awards. He was the first black recipient of both these awards, and very young at that.