While widespread anarchy and looting is currently in the spotlight in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, a North West farmer has also been targeted by criminals which, he believes, were inspired by this week’s violent uprising against the government.
Tsephiso Jantjies, a 34-year-old farmer, this week watched in horror as his warehouse burnt down, after allegedly being set alight. His farm, Jantjies Boerdery, is situated in Pudimoe, outside Taung, and he specialises in, among others, crop production and animal feed manufacturing.
In an exclusive interview with Food For Mzansi an emotional Jantjies says, “Everything I harvested was burned to ashes. [A total of] 150 tonnes of lucerne was burned to ashes. That is the product on which my employees and I rely; the product that generates more income every month.”
Jantjies believes there is a direct correlation between the fire on his farm on Monday, 12 July 2021 and the widespread anarchy in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
“It’s possible because we’re close to the village that last came to our site to protest and close our entrance, claiming that the land belongs to them. It’s also possible that the looters were influenced by what was going on in other provinces and decided to take a chance,” he explains.
Agriculture is key to a healthy economy
Jantjies adds that authorities attempted to extinguish the fire, but were unable to do so in time. He could also not salvage anything from the warehouse before it was burnt to the ground.
Agriculture is the base of a healthy economy, says Jantjies.
“The consequences of looting will be visible when consumers need to buy basic items like bread and milk, which will be difficult since many agricultural activities have been disrupted.
“The value of the destroyed equipment and harvest is approximately R3 million, but I’ll have to spend twice that amount to replace everything, pay my debts, pay my staff, and rebuild my warehouse.”
Jantjies has ten full-time and five part-time employees.
He says, “I haven’t decided what will happen to my workers because I understand what poverty is. Taking away jobs in a black community that is already plagued by so many problems would be inhumane.”
Are we approaching famine?
This sentiment is shared by Mbali Ngcobo (34), owner of the Drakensberg Bee Academy in KwaZulu-Natal.
She tells Food For Mzansi, “Once you disrupt the primary [source] that is agriculture, we then invite food insecurity.
“As farmers, we rely on the seasons and any disruptions have an impact not only on the current year, but also on the following year.”
Ngcobo believes that South Africa is dangerously approach famine and, if urgent steps aren’t taken to prevent looting, the nation will starve.
“This looting has already caused so much damage because it has made basic essentials even more difficult to obtain,” she says.
Rising food prices on the cards
Grant Jacobs, chief executive of HelloChoice, an online bidding farmers’ market, says being unable to transport produce could lead to severe failure of the food systems and inflation of food prices.
“We’re talking to farmers about how our online platform can help the ailing system in order to lessen the impact on their businesses, we plan to bridge the gap between potential food insecurity and economic viability,” Jacobs explains.
Farmers are struggling to move their cargo to various areas and food is decaying, he adds.
He warns that the economy will continue to deteriorate as a result of the number of people who are unemployed. “Communities must work together to ensure that their towns survive and do not fall victim to these barbaric acts.”
Jacobs adds that food is going to waste as a result of cancelled orders because no one really knows how long the unrest and looting, currently contained to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, will continue.