Farmers upbeat about Zuma govt

2009-08-05 18:03

Bloemfontein - Farmers were more positive about the country after a meeting between Agricultural Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Agri SA, an agricultural conference heard on Wednesday.

"With the first meeting between the minister and Agri SA in Pretoria it was the first time that we were greeted courteously and treated as equal South Africans," president of Free State Agriculture Louw Steytler said.

"Standing before the congress today I am far more positive than the last six years.

"The winds of change and the voice of reason which farmers wanted to establish in the country are starting to form," he told about 170 delegates at Free State Agriculture's annual congress in Bloemfontein.

Joemat-Pettersson's focus was on food security, food affordability and sustainable land reform while working with all agricultural groupings for a better future, he said.

'Farmers made into activists'

Steytler said the time under the administration of previous president Thabo Mbeki would be known, in the organised agricultural sector, as a "squandered opportunity to advance the voice of reason".

Steytler said sadly the previous administration turned organised agriculture workers into activists.

"We were turned into activists because we simply had no other way of addressing issues.

"Crime, specifically farm murders and violence in the rural areas, became our focus point instead of the production of fibre and food."

Nevertheless, Steytler warned farmers there were still individuals and groupings in government who did not like organised commercial farmers.

Steytler said one of the immediate tasks would be to make sure the Zuma administration was successful with land reform.

"The minister wants a plan and she asked Agri SA to help," he told farmers, adding it was constitutionally and economically achievable.