By: Bongani Hans
Durban – If Black people are to be successful in becoming commercial farmers they should copy what Afrikaner farmers did to empower themselves, says KwaZulu-Natal agriculture and rural development MEC Themba Mthembu.
“I read a lot of books about Afrikaner economic empowerment, if you want to know about economic empowerment.”
“If you want to learn how to empower your people copy what the Afrikaner did, then you will be spot on. It is something possible to do,” he said.
Addressing small-scale farmers in Durban at the weekend about his department’s R2.2billion budget, which he delivered at the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg late last week, Mthembu said that white farmers should be brought on board to guide small-scale black farmers on how to acquire relevant skills.
He said he would engage white farmers on the importance of transferring skills to young black farmers.
He said it would be wrong of white farmers who are leading the agriculture industry not to transfer their skills as most of them were above the age of 60 and were retiring from the industry.
He said the provincial department of agriculture was working on a succession plan that would “build a new crop of leaders in agriculture”.
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“And we need to start now if we are not to be late to work on the succession planning.”
“That is why we are going to be very aggressive in agri-BEE, and building industrialists in the sector,” he said.
Mthembu’s spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana said Mthembu’s busy schedule had prevented him from meeting giant farming associations in February, but that meeting would now be held in the next few months.
Nkwanyana said when Mthembu met the white farmers’ associations he would tell them that “it is a give-and-take situation”.
“They are looking for a drought bailout, and we can intervene as government, but in return they have to mentor black farmers to grow.”
“They cannot ask for government assistance but decline to assist the government,” said Nkwanyana.
Mthembu would tell farmers associations that it was in the best interests of the province and the country to diversify farming by training as many black farmers as possible to prevent the decline of the farming sector, Nkwanyana said.
He said research had shown that white farmers were ageing and retiring.
“The mentorship by the Afrikaners would help the black farmers to enter the space, as most of the black farmers get farms through land reform without skills,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union chief executive officer Sandy La Marque said the union would like to meet Mthembu so that it could inform him of a number of projects that had been undertaken without government’s invention.
“It is something that we have been very proactive about, and we have implemented skills development and capacity building within farming areas over a period of time now.”
“I don’t have the number of projects at my fingertips, but I can tell you that in most communities across KwaZulu-Natal commercial farmers are busy assisting and upskilling farmers in their areas,” La Marque said.
On the issue of putting conditions of commercial farmers getting drought relief funds in return for assisting black farmers, La Marque warned that Mthembu would be violating the Disaster Management Act.
“It is the act in the legislation, which clearly defines and determines how disaster management is applied.”
“It cannot be conditional on what the MEC has now stipulated,” said La Marque.