Freedom Day: Madiba’s legacy still guides agriculture

Freedom Day stands as a beacon of hope of that moment in our history when we all did what is best for our democracy. Nelson Mandela’s grandson and chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development, Zwelivelile "Mandla" Mandela, believes that 27 years into democracy his grandfather's legacy is still alive and well

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Nelson Mandela’s grandson and the tribal chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council in rural Eastern Cape, Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, believes that 27 years into democracy his grandfather’s legacy is still alive and well. However, poverty in the country is still very high and agriculture could play a critical role in alleviating it. Sinesipho Tom spoke to him.


It has been exactly 27 years since Mzansi had its first non-racial election in 1994 which liberated the country from the apartheid rule.

Heroes such as the icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela fought for the liberation of black people in the country and to pay homage for their sacrifices, we celebrate Freedom Day on the 27th of April each year.

Freedom Day
Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development. Photo: Supplied

Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela (46), believes that 27 years into democracy his grandfathers’ legacy is still alive and well. He says it will remain that way as long as people are courageous enough to speak the truth and hold power to account.

Mandela is also the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development and says that despite our democracy, poverty is still very high. He believes that agriculture plays a critical role in alleviating poverty in this country.

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Food For Mzansi sat down with the Mandela, who is also a political studies graduate from Rhodes University, to celebrate Freedom Day by reflecting on the past 27 years.

Sinesipho Tom: What part of Nelson Mandela’s legacy do you see being upheld in South Africa today?

Mandla Mandela: Madiba’s legacy is alive and well. We still have our freedom and democracy, and our institutions such as the judiciary remain intact. Our Constitution still reigns supreme and that is the foundational cornerstone that keeps our democracy going.

More than anything else we are reminded of President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s words: “And I smiled because every day ordinary South Africans, women and men are making a difference”. Madiba’s legacy is not at risk of dying because politicians fail – there will always be good and bad politicians. What matters to Nkosi Dalibhunga’s legacy is that the people must never give up. They must never go silent. As long as there is one voice courageous enough to speak the truth and hold power to account, the legacy lives on.

“The vast majority of the commercial farming sector remains white, fortunately most of them remain patriotic and loyal supporters of Madiba’s legacy.”

Where do you think South African agriculture is going with the freedom we were granted in 1994?

My grandfather was born in a deep rural village called Mvezo. Agriculture was central to people’s daily lives. That has not changed much, but we must encourage South Africans to grow their own food and ensure their own survival whether in rural, peri-urban or urban areas. We must mobilise people to take care of their own food security and nutrition. The fight against poverty is real and agriculture has a critical role to play in that respect.

Agriculture exports and the agri-processing industry has grown exponentially during the democratic dispensation, but there is still huge potential for growth. We must all work together to realise that potential; it is within our reach. We must do more to transform the agriculture sector and introduce more black commercial farmers to reduce the risk of white farmers emigrating to greener pastures or holding the country’s food security to ransom. The vast majority of the commercial farming sector remains white, fortunately most of them remain patriotic and loyal supporters of Madiba’s legacy.

“Your future is intertwined with the future of this nation and the future of farmers and landowners. Do not lose hope; the struggle continues.”

We continuously call on them to advance the national agenda and partner in empowering aspirant black farmers through skills transfer, genuine partnerships, supporting agriculture cooperatives, investing in skills and training of farmworkers, and ensuring security of tenure for workers and farm-dwellers on their farms. Most of all (we call on them) to support land reform and broaden land ownership through voluntary transfer of productive surplus land to ease the pressure of land hunger and civil discontent with the pace of land reform.

What is a message that you would like to send along to those working in the agriculture sector as we celebrate Freedom Day?

Freedom Day stands as a beacon of hope of that moment in our history when we all did what is best for our democracy. It enabled us to step away from the precipice of civil war, the threat of chaos and mass destruction. That is a choice we as South Africans have to ongoingly affirm in the face of any threat to our democracy and our peaceful co-existence. For workers in the agriculture sector who largely still face the brunt of poverty, suffering and hardship, this is a call to persevere, organise and engage. Your future is intertwined with the future of this nation and the future of farmers and landowners. Do not lose hope; the struggle continues.

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