South African farming organization Agri SA has given its "wholehearted support" to the economic policies recently outlined by the country's new president Cyril Ramaphosa, but is concerned about the sensitive topic of land expropriation.
Agri SA said a recent speech by Ramaphosa, who recently replaced Jacob Zuma, was a "frank admission of the challenges negatively impacting on the morale of South Africans" and the drivers necessary for progress.
“Agri SA therefore wholeheartedly supports the economic solutions outlined in the State of the Nation Address to turn the country around and to create a future of hope, social cohesion and prosperity for all,” Agri SA president Dan Kriek said.
Significant emphasis was placed on the need to create jobs, advancing transformation and establishing an ethical, caring and service orientated state fraternity at municipal level, provincial and national level, Agri SA said.
The establishment of local economic zones, the review of SARS and state-owned enterprises, appointment of the right people as well as implementing a wide range of social and economic interventions in the small business sector, agriculture, mining, tourism and other sectors were also welcomed by the organization.
Prioritising the economy and the role of entrepreneurs was also a key feature of the address. Agri SA therefore calls on the president to "seize the opportunity and exploit the goodwill on offer from local and international investors."
However, Agri SA said that such a bold vision "cannot be tarnished by excluding anyone or a particular community".
"The plans announced by the President should be inclusive of all the people of South Africa regardless of race, colour, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, age or physical constraints," it said.
"The National Constitution demands of all of us to build a united and non-racial society and to nurture the talent and honour the contribution of all our people.
"South Africa remains a highly divided nation and it is through honouring the dignity of every South African, inclusivity and mutual respect that this divide can be bridged."
In this regard, the farming association said it was "highly concerned with the contradictory statements related to acknowledging agriculture as the biggest contributor the past quarters in terms of economic growth and job creation, whilst in the same breath calling for the expropriation of land without compensation."
It said that not only does it subvert the letter and spirit of the National Constitution, but it also "entrenches the perception that the governing party has no regard for the founding principles of our newly founded democracy."
"The question also remains: From whom will land be expropriated and to whom will it be given?" asked Agri SA.
"Such populist statements will do more harm than good and contradicts the underlying theme of the State of the Nation Address to grow the sector through investment to unleash its fullest potential."
Agri SA therefore appeals to the president to rather "desist from such populist rhetoric and to engage with the commercial agricultural industry to find amicable solutions to the land question."
The entity is developing its own land transformation plan that will be commercially driven and will aim to increase national production significantly without having to change the constitution, according to executive director Omri van Zyl.
“Undermining the notion of private ownership and still expecting the private sector to enthusiastically embrace partnerships between themselves and the state will not happen,” van Zyl said.
Photo: Photo: GovernmentZA, via Flickr Creative Commons