Tributes are pouring in for Dr Vuyo Mahlati, the president of Afasa (the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa) and owner of a wool processing plant in the Eastern Cape, who died this morning aged 55.
From the farmlands to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Mahlati’s death sent shockwaves through the agricultural sector with many remembering the “fearless, no-nonsense champion for land reform”.
The former public protector, prof. Thuli Madonsela took to Twitter to honour Mahlati, who served as chairperson of pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel on land reform and agriculture. Ismail Motala, chair of the Deciduous Fruit Industry Development Trust also sent his heartfelt condolences.
Death simply has no rules, no Standard Operating Protocol.Beyond shocked at the news of the sudden passing of the super talented development activist, Dr Vuyo Mahlati. Heartfelt condolences to SAWID, IWF and many transformation vehicles Vuyo tirelessly served. #RIPDrVuyoMahlati pic.twitter.com/pzMZzRMDQp
— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) October 13, 2020
It with great sadness that our country has lost a land reform champion, Dr Vuyo Mahlati who served as the President of AFASA and Chaired the advisory panel on land reform. My condolences to her family and the AFASA family
— Ismail C Motala (@IsmailMotala6) October 13, 2020
Mahlati fought for land redistribution
Dan Kriek, former Agri SA president who also served on Ramaphosa’s panel, says he’ll remember Mahlati as a strong woman whose power was undeniable in her fight for land redistribution.
“She didn’t take any nonsense. She had tremendous work ethic and was fearless in her work towards the development of new black farmers. I hear the news of her death with great sadness and she will be sorely missed,” says Kriek.
Chief executive of the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), Dr John Purchase, says Mahlathi left a big impression, and her absence will be sorely felt.
“We knew her well. This was not what I expected to hear this morning. It’s a massive loss for the agriculture sector. She was a leader at the forefront of a very specific constituency that filled the agricultural space. She will be missed.”
Sehularo Sehularo, president of Afasa in the Northern Cape, adds that Mahlathi’s death comes as a great shock for not only the sector, but the country.
“Dr Vuyo had a vision to see us, black farmers, transition into commercial farmers. She was really pushing for women to be successful. It is a sad day for South Africa as a whole and, more especially, the farming sector. She played a very important role in the land expropriation bill. We have lost someone very important in the sector.”
Dawn Noemdoe reports that Ikageng Maluleke, agricultural economist at Grain South Africa, described Mathlati as visionary.
“This is such a great loss for youth and women as she was a great advocate for both in this sector. I loved her presence and how she commanded respect. She was a serious force to be reckoned with.”
Livestock farmer and Afasa youth chairperson, Keatlegile Mnguni, believes Mathlati’s impact and contribution to agriculture has been remarkable.
“She has planted a lot of seeds within the industry. She had a voice that reached many and stood for what she believed in. She inspired changed not only in South African agriculture, but on the entire continent.”
Hailed for work in rural economies
Qinisani Qwabe, agricultural researcher at the Mangosuthu University of Technology’s Institute for Rural Development and Community Engagement, says Mathlati has done extraordinary work, especially for marginal, rural economies.
“She was a driver of change. She hated poverty and constantly spoke about her positions on food insecurity. Her efforts were always driven towards poverty alleviation.”
Ivor Price reports that Malixole Gwatyu, the former editor of Farming SA, has also been left saddened by the news.
Gwatyu says, “Dr Vuyo was a formidable leader who brought vision and a sense of purpose to black agricultural development through her role at Afasa. She was not only the first woman president of Afasa, but also of a national agricultural union. Her contribution in inspiring thousands of women in agriculture will never be quantified.”
He adds, “She was also a successful farmer in her own right. I remember her as someone who had a deep and genuine passion for agriculture and above all cooperation in pursuit of farmer development.”
Other tributes include those issued by GCIS director-general Phumla Williams. She says, “The country has lost a great visionary leader who impacted many lives, embraced challenges and has had a profound effect on the future direction of South Africa – particularly on agriculture and land issues. Her life was characterised by her passion to drive social change to better the lives of South Africans.”
Mahlati was serving her second term as a member of the National Planning Commission. In May 2010 she was appointed to serve as an inaugural member of South Africa’s National Planning Commission for five years responsible for crafting the National Development Plan.
Furthermore, her company, Ivili Loboya, produced Mzansi’s first cashmere which was created and processed in rural Eastern Cape. She was a recipient of the “2019 Woman of Substance” award presented by the African Women Chartered Accountants. Mahlati was a recognised thought leader who participated in global think tanks on corporate diversity leadership and inclusive development.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. May she rest in peace and may her legacy continue through the lives of all those she had touched,” said Williams.