Max du Preez

Organised agriculture must take the lead

2017-02-28 08:01

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South Africa will follow one of two routes from here on: “radical socio-economic transformation” according to the model of Jacob Zuma and his patronage group, or “inclusive growth” according to the model of Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas.

South Africans will have to be very clear that if the model is going to be inclusive growth, the “inclusive” part of that will have to be substantial, even radical, otherwise the state capturers, the corrupt and cheap populists will eventually win the battle anyway.

The agriculture and business communities should read the writing on the wall and understand that the socio-political dynamics of the last two decades have changed drastically.

The choice is clear: take an active part in inclusive growth or become a victim of the populists’ radical economic transformation. It is not only the right thing to do, it is in your own interest to do so.

Gordhan used a phrase in his budget speech that will reverberate for a long time: transformation without growth will damage the economy, service delivery and especially the poor; growth without transformation will widen the already dangerous inequality in society.

He says quite rightly that the only real test for any economic model is whether it creates jobs, combats poverty and narrows the inequality gap.

Communist Party leader and Cabinet Minister Blade Nzimande warned on the weekend that the mantra of radical economic transformation surfacing again now was actually an opportunistic way to advance narrow black elite accumulation.

The problem is that one can simply not predict any longer what is going to happen next.

The power struggle in the ruling ANC has now become an all-consuming open war that escalates virtually every day. It is this war that will determine which route we’re going to take as a nation, not rational policies and decisions.

This will go on until at least the ANC elective conference at the end of the year, perhaps even until mid-2018.

Ordinary citizens, the media opposition parties, civil society and the business sector can do little about this apart from being very vigilant and to use public opinion and the courts to prevent the Zuma faction of the ANC to do irreperable harm to our economy and our stability.

It will be a difficult task, because the Zuma/Gupta cabal enjoys the loyal support of strategic state organs: the state security and intelligence services, the Hawks, the SA Revenue Service, the national prosecuting authority and probably also the Public Protector.

The new tax rates – 45 percent for the upper middle class and an extra 39c for every litre of fuel for all of us – are really high. Taxpayers now have an even stronger right to demand that their tax money be spent properly; to scream out loud when, for instance, we read in last Sunday’s newspapers that the CEO of Prasa had given himself a 350 percent salary increase, that VIP protection during the last three years of the Zuma administration had risen to R6 billion, that Eskom is riddled with corruption and tender fraud and that that was the reason for the blackouts that had damaged our economy so severely.

Agriculturalists should take Zuma very seriously when he says he wants to now have land confiscated without payment. The time for wait and see and having sweet chats with the minister is over.

Organised agriculture will have to urgently lobby for a watertight agreement with the government: support for a much faster and much more ambitious land reform programme in exchange for unbreakable guarantees that productive farms will be left alone.

The state has been very inept in its handling of land reform the last two decades and has wasted many billions of rands with little to show.

What we need now is a grand, holistic plan along the lines of the National Development Plan that looks at every aspect of land use and agriculture and spells out detailed policies.

This is not only essential to safeguard food security and rural stability. Agriculture is also the one sure way we have to create many jobs and grow the economy.

But then we have to enable at least another 100 000 sustainable small farmers along with at least another 10 000 big commercial farmers and hundreds more worker share schemes.

This initiative will not come from the state. It will have to come from the private sector. Much of the work has been done by researchers such as the Povery, Land and Agrarian Studies unit at the University of the Western Cape.

This is the time for organised agriculture to be very bold and innovative. Business as usual will spell catastrophe.

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Read more on:    anc  |  agricultural sector

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