An ANC delegation, led by Cde Jessie Duarte, Secretary General, met with over 80 farmers who are members of the African Famers Association of South Africa (AFASA). The group represented grain, cattle, sheep, poultry, vegetable and fruit farmers. Below is an extract of remarks by the Deputy Secretary General of the African National Congress, Cde Jessie Duarte.
The African national Congress was first and foremost established as a vanguard for and for resistance against land dispossession of the African population in particular. Our learned, the African clergy, the traditional leaders of all kinds came together to unite Africans under one banner to give practical meaning to “an injury to one is an injury to all”.
The ANC was formed by people like you. The ANC belongs to you. The ANC is nothing without you. The ANC recognizes that at times we forget as leaders that this ANC is not ours as leaders but yours. Our privilege is to lead it. It belongs to you. You, the farmers who work the land, are the ANC and the ANC is you.
The views of the farming community are crucial as we develop our policies towards our manifesto architecture for 2019. We know you are suffering, we know your struggles are many. We know that you are not enjoying the benefits of the farmers who were beneficiaries of state farming subsidies during apartheid. We know that you need tools, fertilizers, chemicals and better markets.
We know you need land and secure tenure so that your soil can be bankable. We seek a constructive resolution on expropriation of land which will now include non-compensation to benefit real farmers, real workers of the soil and not politicians. Today, our role is to listen to concerns and allay any fears of economic or social mayhem.
We want to make sure that the world knows about African farmers – and that you have the necessary expertise, you are knowledgeable, you are well capable of feeding this nation and no one has a right to make you feel inferior. The ANC is rooted in dialogue and inclusivity. We are certain that by the end of this process, all of you will be co-sponsors of the ANC resolution on this matter. This is a historic and watershed moment – similar to that of 1912. This is a turning point. It can only turn to the right direction if African farmers are involved.
From the 1700’s to 1994, African farmers have only known humiliation. They were stripped of their dignity, as Pixley ka-Seme said – “We woke up to be pariahs in our own land”. 1994 was about democratizing our politics and giving our people a vote. It was also about democratizing our economy for the benefit of all our people, black or white.
We must create a shared economy – no outsiders but full economic citizenship. Full participation of all, especially the excluded black majority. Land redistribution means a bigger economy, an economy with a larger pool of shoppers, an economy with more produce to export, more fruits to export or can, more forestry for our furniture and so forth. The more we produce the better the economy and inflation control.
A slow down in agriculture directly contributed to this current recession. This talks to the urgent need to redistribute land to more private hands to assist the economy to grow. We have a recession because of the monopolized nature of our land
From food to forestry, from game farming to biodiversity, from wool to agro-processing, Africans and Blacks must be given their rightful opportunities that our forbearers died for. The ANC has called upon the farming community to be agents of change and assist in pushing the sector upwards in GDP contribution.
We must also not look at land redistribution only in the eyes of agriculture. All South Africans must be interested. Land redistribution is not just about farming. We are also talking about human settlements land. This is about access to land near economic zones, and land that is not over crowded.
We are also talking about commercial land space. This sector must be open to all our people equitably. That is how wealth will be shared democratically. We have a number of external experiences that we are drawing experiences from, both within the continent and beyond.
One thing that is not going to happen is to nationalize land. We are not in support of government controlling lives and commerce in that way. Commerce ought to be freed with requisite regulations in place. We are alive to the importance of keeping our world class banking system undisturbed. We may have situations where land has been bonded with a bank loan.
Banking must not find itself collapsing as a result of our efforts to democratize land ownership. What we are clear about is that land will be de-monopolized. Land ownership will be made to be constitutional. At the moment, it is not. Land ownership gives this dignity. All South Africans must have dignity.
Our policy seeks to give each citizen ownership of one’s land, not just citizenship by vote. Land redistribution is a national security imperative. It gives ownership and responsibility to all of us. All South African must feel like South Africans. Land ownership does exactly that.
Besides giving us shelter and food, land gives us a direct stake in nationhood. As South Africans we are engaged in a process of building a nation, where all citizens are treated equally. We cannot do land redistribution without all stakeholders participating in efforts to rebuild our country.
We welcome inputs and ideas from those working the land – from the poor to the
more successful. These engagements are therefore very important and are within the traditions of how we do things as the ANC. We want to assure our people that land access is coming. We would like assure all stakeholders that land redistribution will happen orderly fashion. This will include land that is expropriated without compensation.
What we are engaging on now are modalities and other technical aspects of the matter including how other connected sectors are affected. We are concerned about the entire value chain and are alive to it. The politics of land must be resolved by South Africans working together and not commentary from anyone else across the Pacific.
RESPONSE BY BLACK FARMERS
The response by black famers was overwhelmingly positive.
They indicated that they were in support of the ANC decision to change the Constitution to strengthen government’s ability to expropriate land without compensation where necessary.
The farmers also proposed that land be made available to women, farm workers and especially young farmers with the required skills. They called on government to expedite support mechanisms to farmers in terms of seeds, implements and tractors. They also called for government to provide skills training to emerging farmers. The wool farmers requested that the right type of rams be provided so that the quality of wool produced could be appropriate for export grade.
They urged the ANC government to ensure that the challenge of access to finance through development finance institutions and state-owned enterprises be addressed.
Farmers pointed to the reality that only 1 percent of the food security produced in South Africa came from black farmers. This was primarily due to lack of land. They called on the ANC government to review the value chain marketing propositions and assist in the creation of markets without the inclusion of third party agents.
The meeting ended in a good spirit and a positive note.
Cde Jessie Duarte is the Deputy Secretary General of the African National Congress