Following Cyril Ramaphosa’s much-talked-about weekend battle within the ANC, two leaders in the agricultural sector have now urged the president to press forward with plans to root out corruption.
This after Ramaphosa’s controversial open letter warning his own party and cadres charged with corruption that they will be obliged to relinquish their positions until their pending cases are finalised.
In a rare show of unity and force on Monday evening, the president, surrounded by the ANC’s top six, also admitted that there was an orchestrated attack by some who were pushing back against his drive to root out corruption in the state. His admission trails the ANC’s national executive committee meeting over the weekend that debated ongoing corruption allegations, including those linked to the looting of covid-19 relief funds.
Corruption has cost the country immensely over the past decade, warns some of agriculture’s top guns, and invariably the poor suffers the most. They say now is the perfect time for the president to put South Africa first, even above his own party.
‘South Africans are very angry’
Agri SA’s deputy executive director, Christo van der Rheede, says presidential leadership has never been more crucial to save the economy and to stabilise the socio-economic environment.
“South Africans, in general, are very angry about the high levels of unemployment, crime, corruption, poverty and lack of economic opportunities and support that goes with it. We run the risk of civil conflict, something we can ill afford. This, as well the perceived impunity that corrupt politicians and civil servants enjoy, might trigger civil conflict on a scale that the government and entities that are responsible for maintaining law and order will not be able to quell. “
Van der Rheede says now is the time for the president to be merciless in his approach to address corruption in the country. “Now is not the time to compromise, to shift the responsibility or to save the ANC. The rot has become too deeply embedded at all levels and it is the poorest of the poor that bear the brunt. This is a grave injustice and a constitutional imperative that now rests on your shoulders to address it. Put South Africa first and do not allow malignant politics to distract you from your promise of a new dawn!”
Primary agri set to grow up to 15% this year
Chief executive of the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), Dr John Purchase, says corruption does not just impact agriculture, but impacts all sectors that contribute to our economy.
“Agbiz fully supports all efforts to root out the scourge of corruption, whoever the corruptors in government and private sector are. Currently Agbiz is involved on a couple of platforms to develop a post-covid economic recovery strategy, and agriculture and agro-processing (in the agro-food value chain) are specific areas of focus as there is potential to grow the sectors.”
Purchase says, “We must, however, remember that primary agriculture’s contribution to GDP over the past 10 years is only about 2,6%, while that of agro-processing is in the region of 3,5%. So, there are many other sectors that will also need to perform to put South Africa on a sound footing for overall inclusive growth.”
Purchase adds that agriculture is fortunate as it generally performs well in economic downturns. “What is encouraging is that primary agriculture will grow by a remarkable 10 to 15% this year, but this is off a low base after a -6,0% contraction of agriculture GDP in 2019. In the South African economy, primary agriculture is often counter-cyclical and helps to buffer negative economic developments and sentiment, while also ensuring a good level of food security in tough times, as is currently happening.”
Purchase says to grow the entire value chain South Africa will need to develop and grow both the local and export markets and improve the country’s competitiveness by improving productivity in production and logistics, especially.