Didiza: ‘Break barriers and see each other as human beings’

Photo: Twitter @SA Gov

Thoko Didiza, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development. Photo: Supplied

Instead of taking up arms the agricultural sector should sit down and resolve its problems, urged Thoko Didiza, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development.

In an interview with Food For Mzansi shortly after a memorial service this week for the late Afasa president, Dr Vuyo Mahlati, the minister commented on tension about a lack of rural safety in Free State farming communities. This follows the brutal killing of a 21-year-old farm foreman, Brendin Horner, on 1 October 2020 on the De Rots farm outside Paul Roux and subsequent tension in Senekal.

Didiza said it is important for farming communities to sit down and resolve their problems instead of fighting as this, she believes, “will not help anybody, but it will actually (only) seek to divide us. And unfortunately, we come from a very divided society which was done systematically. Part of transformation is about breaking those barriers and seeing each other as human beings.”

Furthermore, there is a great need for South Africans to unite and prosper, she said. Citing Mahlati’s invaluable impact on agriculture, the minister stressed that there is much to learn from the life and legacy of Mahlati, an agripreneur and former chairperson of pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel on land reform and agriculture.

“One of the things that Vuyo was passionate about was finding solutions to challenges that we face. Not just as a farming community but also in the society in general.

“She was one of those activists that struggled for the liberation of the country and with that ideal and vision, Vuyo was one of the people who wanted to see a united and prosperous South Africa.”

Earlier, Didiza described Mahlati, who was buried in Pretoria, as “the voice of the struggle for women’s economic empowerment and the commercialisation of black farmers”.

“Her death has robbed us of her valuable contribution in the development of South Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness sector plan, as the country continues to work on strategies for fostering inclusive growth from the shock of the (covid-19) pandemic.”

‘It’s like we have no respect for the sector’

Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga tells Food For Mzansi that discussions pertaining to the farming sector in South African have always been troublesome.

Dr Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst. Photo: Supplied

“The problem is that we have not thought about farming in a modern way. When we think about farming in South Africa, we still have the old classification.

“It’s like we have no respect for the sector. I believe if we had respect for the sector, we would handle this debate very differently,” he says.

Mathekga reckons a new message and tone in debate surrounding issues in the sector is necessary.

“It’s about progressive, forward-looking farming and not farming that is based on our own prejudice towards each other as a nation. If you listen to a discussion surrounding the farming sector in South Africa these days, you end up with a racial debate and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

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Meanwhile, the minister in the presidency, Jackson Mthembu, echoed Didiza’s sentiments following a cabinet meeting. He called on South Africans to band together in the fight against crime. This would help make the country and communities safer for all.

Weighed in on a recent surge in farm attacks and crime, Mthembu stated that rural safety was raised as a point of concern. Cabinet, he said, is fully supportive of the police in arresting those who target producers. “The farming community is an integral part of our economy and crime on farms poses a threat not only to the personal safety of farmers and farm workers, but also to the country’s food security.”

Mthembu vowed that “government is fast-tracking the implementation of the revised rural safety strategy to respond to the security needs of rural communities and support socio-economic development.”

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