EASTERN Cape farmers were inspired and motivated at last week’s Agri EC Congress to keep their hand to the plough in spite of economic uncertainty, land reform pressure and other challenges they face.
About 200 farmers from around the Eastern Cape attended the congress at the Royal St Andrews Hotel.
Keynote speaker Gerhard Papenfus, chief executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa, gave a sobering talk on many of the negative things taking place in South Africa, before contrasting it with a vision of hope.
“We don’t know the meaning of safety unless we know what grave danger is,” he said.
“It’s hard to interpret history when you’re in it. The question is asked, was the French Revolution successful or not? The answer given is, it’s too soon to tell.
“China’s economic rise had a great impact on the world and its cooling-down is also having an impact. Kingdoms don’t stay forever. Apartheid was an experiment that lasted a short while. There’s a new apartheid now, a new experiment. You can call it transformation.”
Papenfus referred his audience to the tenets of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) on the ANC website, which is regularly reaffirmed at the party’s five-yearly national conferences.
“It’s populist, socialist and state-driven. It’s a system where property rights are not recognised. The original promise of the ANC was that black people would get property. Now no one has property rights. Emerging black farmers are finding that out,” he said.
“Race is central in South African politics. If you don’t talk race you’re avoiding the issue. The enemy in the NDR is white minority domination in which white people are the beneficiaries of the system.”
He said the point of the NDR was to eradicate “apartheid colonialism of a special type”, with the new beneficiaries being blacks in general and Africans in particular.
The NDR is not only about property rights, but about the state controlling everything, he said. To this end, cadre deployment gives the ANC control over “all centres of power”.
“A black capitalist group said there are unprecedented opportunities for accumulating wealth in this country. And we see it.”
On the other hand, the labour force of mainly black people was also striving for economic empowerment and the workplace had become a warzone, Papenfus said.
He said the ANC/SACP/Cosatu alliance believed the NDR would eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, promote labour absorption and lead to massive job creation among other benefits.
Papenfus said one of the true believers in the NDR was Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).
“If you ask him where it has worked, he would say South America. Where in particular? He would say Venezuela, But in Venezuela people can’t get bread now. He [Jim] will deflect to ‘how it was’,” Papenfus said.
“They want to reduce inequality, but we have in this system the rich getting richer. We don’t create jobs, we have overregulated labour protection. They speak about expansion of SMMEs. They’re doing nothing to promote this. We don’t have an entrepreneurship culture.
“This all creates uncertainty,” Papenfus said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but we’re going in the wrong direction.”
He said quotas were another example, with the ANC determined to bring this about in every sphere, and the workplace being exactly representative of the demographics of the country.
“The revolution will never end. The ANC talks about a seamless transition, but they never arrive at their desired outcome, so there’s always an enemy – white minority capital.”
And yet, Papenfus said, “I wouldn’t live anywhere else or any other time in history. The biggest potential in us is to live in the here and now. We were meant to be here and now. It’s an amazing time to be alive. Thank the Father.
“Do we retreat into ourselves, hide from reality, invest our money overseas, leave our vocation? Or do we stay in the game and play harder? There’s no excuse for playing softer.”
Telling farmers they were the “salt of the earth”, Papenfus exhorted: “If the country needs food, you grow it; if they need jobs, you provide employment. Stay on the land. If other guys say they’re going to take it away from you, then buy more.”