Immigration agencies have claimed that they were inundated by South Africans who wanted to leave the country following recent anarchy in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
“We have arguably never seen a reaction to any political or economic event, as what we were seeing with the civil unrest,” said Robert Ragius, a director of New World Immigration.
“We were just inundated, probably a 1 500% increase in the number of inquiries, not just the number, but the tone of people that are calling in, there was definitely desperation.”
Farmers, however, tell Food For Mzansi that they are here to stay.
“The grass is not always greener on the other side,” believes grain and sheep farmer Alfreda Mars. She is among the six agriculturists who have listed their reasons for committing to what grain farmer Sinelizwi Fakade describes as “the land of opportunity.”
1. Many untapped opportunities
For Eastern Cape grain farmer Sinelizwi Fakade the reasons to stay are clear.
“South Africa is the land of opportunity,” he says.
“There is so much untapped potential from an agricultural perspective, especially in rural provinces like the Eastern Cape.”
According to Fakade, as a young farmer, the many untapped opportunities is what inspires him to wake him up every morning and to continue farming and developing agriculturists.
“That opportunity gives me the confidence to say there’s more that I can do to grow myself as an individual, but also others around me. I’ve grown up loving my country, but I’ve also grown up with this mentality [that asks] what little change can I do in my little corner to make this country a better place.”
2. Great food from great farms
Western Cape fruit and vegetable exporter Uzair Essack says he remains committed to South Africa not only due to many career opportunities, but because of the breath-taking landscapes.
“We have beautiful mountains, oceans, forests and farms. Most importantly, those beautiful farms grow us world renowned South African food. If you go to any country in the world, you’ll find some South African food on their shelves,” he says.
If you speak to South Africans about the local cuisine, there will always be consensus that the country has the best tasting food in the entire world, believes Essack.
3. A future-focused sector
“I love this country and agriculture is really a great sector and very sustainable [at that],” says Mimie Jacobs, an award-wining Free State farmer.
She often thinks of the agricultural sector in the same way that she does the telecommunications industry.
“It’s one of the most important spaces in our country and it’s nice to know that you are part of a group of people who ensures that the country continues to exist and has food,” Jacobs states.
For her, it is important to be part of the process to rebuild South Africa despite all of the country’s challenges.
She furthermore considers it an honour to create employment through agriculture. “It’s a privilege to be able to participate in the economy and to grow it,” Jacobs concludes.
4. Rich, diverse history
For Eric van Zyl, an app-building farmer from the Western Cape, staying in South Africa is a no-brainer.
“There is one reason why any farmer [whether white or black] would want to stay in the country and that is because of their forefathers’ footsteps that run deep throughout this beautiful country,” he tells Food For Mzansi.
Van Zyl says looking back at everything that was achieved and built, he considers it as incredible to be able to live in a country that was developed with the help of his forebears.
“It’s very important that every person knows their ancestry and history. It doesn’t matter what the history is, you can never change it. History is history and it is there for all of us to learn from,” he adds.
5. A positive nation
Meanwhile, renowned agripreneur Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela says despite having lost her craft beer business due to government’s Covid-19 alcohol sales ban, she is staying because South Africans are always willing to help.
“Some brewery owners have turned their breweries into soup kitchens [during the lockdown]. Others have been raising funds to buy food vouchers for those who have lost their jobs in the alcohol industry.
“The element of ubuntu in the industry is still there, even though people are going through a lot,” Nxusani-Mawela says.
Nxusani-Mawela looks forward to a post-pandemic country. “A South Africa where we will rebuild all that we have lost and will, once again, have a great [alcohol] industry.”
6. Committed to food security
“The grass is not always greener on the other side,” says Alfreda Mars, a leading sheep and grain farmer in the Swartland region of the Western Cape.
According to Mars, she would not be able to farm overseas to the same extent she does in Mzansi. The reason is simple, she believes. “They do not look at women in farming as they do in South Africa.
“It’s been a long struggle [for black and female South Africans] to get land and now we must appreciate the opportunity.
“If all of us start leaving South Africa, what will happen to our country’s food security, our people and their families?” Mars asks.