In reaction to the recent State of the Nation Address, presented by the President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) has applauded the President for being able to give a picture of the country’s progress over the past 20 years.
Aggrey Mahanjana, AFASA General Secretary, said although the President didn’t say much on the way forward, his emphasis on the party’s commitment to fight corruption was commendable. Mahanjana said corruption was a virus which seriously threatened the country’s economic development and social stability.
During his State of the Nation Address speech, Zuma pointed out that since 1994, nearly 5 000 farms, comprising 4.2 million hectares, had been transferred to black people, benefiting over 200 000 families. Zuma said nearly 80 000 land claims, totaling 3.4 million hectares, were settled, benefiting 1.8 million people.
“The next administration will need to take forward a number of policy, legislative and practical interventions, to further redress the dispossession of our people of their land,” said Zuma.
The President also emphasised the importance of Agriculture as a key job driver and provider of opportunities for entrepreneurship. “Our agricultural support programme, Fetsa Tlala, is producing brand new exporters. The first 88 smallholder farmers in this programme supplied the United Nations World Food Programme with 268 tons of maize and beans to send to Lesotho last month. We expect this number to increase,” said Zuma.
But Mahanjana also pointed out that the President’s report that 5 000 farms had been distributed was incomplete. He said it did not explain what the current production status on these farms was. “The big question is, has land reform in South Africa resulted in, among other things, the improvement of agricultural production and food security, increased employment in the sector or the establishment of new agro-processing industries and economic development in rural South Africa?” asked Mahanjana.
He said the Fetsa Tlala programme has been a great disappointment to the smallholder farmers. “We hope that this year, the President proves us wrong, by ensuring that this programme was properly budgeted for and coordinated,” said Mahanjana. “However, in terms of preferential procurement in favour of smallholder farmers, regarding the food aid to Lesotho, AFASA would like to commend and give credit to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson. We hope that our members will take advantage of this initiative in future”.
“We look forward to the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan’s budget vote speech, and hope that his budget allocation to both departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Rural Development and Land Reform will be in line with the President’s wishes,” concluded Mahanjana.
AFASA is a unitary and representative body of South African farmers whose primary aim is to create competent and successful commercial farmers in South Africa.