New CAF president and South Africa’s first black billionaire Patrice Motsepe has finally broken his silence about a pledge to establish a multi-billion rand fund to support black farmers.
Following a late-night call to Food For Mzansi, the Motsepe Foundation has affirmed its intention to continue with its philanthropic activities in sustainable agriculture, land reform and development.
However, the billionaire hotshot remains tight-lipped about a future partnership with the African Farmers’ Association (AFASA).
Upon being asked whether the fund will still be launched, Sandile Langa, legal executive at African Rainbow Minerals, said, “The programme is ongoing. Several feasibility studies have already been concluded with the assistance of Agri SA.”
This follows a nationwide outcry by AFASA-affiliated farmers over the last few weeks about Motsepe’s 16-month-old promise to finance black farmers.
Motsepe’s pledge was made during his October 2019 address to AFASA’s Agribusiness Transformation Conference. Since then, neither AFASA nor farmers have heard anything about the fund, which according to Motsepe was to be established in partnership with commercial banks.
‘Meetings with kings and queens’
It says, “Despite numerous meetings over the past 18 months with kings, queens, traditional leaders and other rural and urban stakeholders and several feasibility studies having been prepared in partnership with Agri SA, the agriculture and land reform sustainable development partnership programme has experienced challenges.”
The role-players the foundation met with hail from KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Free State and Northern Cape, where it has spent more than R600 million over many years.
In their first public response on the matter, the foundation now tell Food For Mzansi that establishing the farmers’ fund has proven to be rather difficult.
The Motsepe Foundation says it has been difficult for banking and other financial institutions to partner, co-fund or provide finance to agriculture and land reform projects in partnership with them, the Traditional Communities Partnership and Agri SA.
This, it explains in a statement, was due to challenges relating to the acquisition and provision of title deeds and other land security.
“However, extensive discussions and meetings are ongoing to conclude sustainable and long term agriculture and land reform partnerships,” the foundation says.
These meetings include the foundation and other partakers such as, kings, queens, traditional leaders and their communities, poor rural as well as urban communities, commercial agricultural farmers and other stakeholders.
These partakers hail from KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Free State and Northern Cape, where the foundation states it has spent more than R600 million over many years.
But what about AFASA farmers?
The Motsepe Foundation’s statements do not include any mentions of AFASA. When probed about the road ahead Langa said, “It was always the intention of the Motsepe Foundation to bring in banks and other financial institutions to partner in this programme and to co-fund the agricultural partnerships that will be established.
“The lack of title deeds and land security in rural areas has made this difficult, but these discussions are continuing. However, as indicated, several feasibility studies have already been prepared and the process is moving forward.”
Earlier this week, AFASA chairperson Neo Masithela told Food For Mzansi that “Dr Motsepe made the announcement voluntary with the intention of helping the country and industry. Hence, as AFASA, we will keep engaging him or his foundation and other good people like him to continue helping the industry and the country.”
Masithela furthermore denies that the billionaire has “ghosted” AFASA, as reported earlier by Food For Mzansi. Instead, the AFASA chairperson says in the last 16 months they have merely not heard anything again from Motsepe about the promised fund.
With media from across the country attending the AFASA conference where Motsepe made the announcement, the promised billions made nationwide headlines.
Motsepe’s other investments in agriculture
Shortly after the announcement, Masithela told OFM’s Christal-Lize Muller that the billionaire would partner with AFASA to improve the livelihoods of black farmers over a period of ten years.
Meanwhile the Motsepe Foundation’s statement to Food For Mzansi confirms funding already allocated to the development and growth of agriculture and farming projects in traditional communities and poor rural and urban communities.
These millions were reportedly spent on tractors, farming equipment and implements, irrigation systems, fertilisers, seeds, more than 300 boreholes, water tanks and water storage facilities, as well as other agricultural and farming inputs.
The foundation says it has also built clinics, schools, classrooms, early childhood education centres, computer centres and other development and upliftment facilities across the country.
The Motsepe Foundation also acknowledges Agri SA’s efforts in providing technical skills, expertise and knowledge of the Southern African agriculture and farming sector. It says, “The agriculture and land reform process in South Africa is extremely complex and challenging.”
As a result, the Motsepe Foundation along with other role players, are on a steep learning curve. However, they remain committed to making a humble contribution to the agriculture and land reform process in Mzansi.