Black South Africans who would want to be successful in commercial farming must learn from Afrikaner farmers says KZN agriculture and rural development MEC Themba Mthembu.
Mthembu who was addressing small-scale farmers in Durban said black commercial farmers are not successful because they fail to learn from what the Afrikaans do to empower themselves.
According to him, the white farmers need to be brought to teach and guide the small-scale black farmers on how to acquire relevant skills that would be beneficial to them and government.
“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 during his department’s R2.2 billion budget at the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg.
He said he would engage white farmers on the importance of transferring skills to young black farmers.
This, according to him, is necessary because 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.
“We need to start now if we are not to be late to work on the succession planning,” Themba Mthembu said, adding that the provincial department of agriculture was working hard on a succession plan that would “build a new crop of leaders in agriculture”.
“That is why we are going to be very aggressive in agri-BEE, and building industrialists in the sector,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mthembu’s spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana who explained why Mthembu failed to meet with top farming associations in the country in February, confirmed that the MEC have met with White farmers associations in the country telling them of the need to educate the black farmers on the Dos and Don’ts of the business.
He, however, noted that Mthembu’s busy schedule has kept him off some crucial meeting with farmers but that he would be meeting with them in next few months.
The whites 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.
Training black farmers would help to diversify farming in the country so as to prevent the decline of the farming sector, Nkwanyana said while pointing out how research shows 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.
Meanwhile, the KZN Agricultural Union chief executive officer Sandy La Marque said the union would like to have a meeting with Themba Mthembu where he would be informed about the 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.
Speaking about the issue of putting conditions of commercial farmers getting drought relief funds in return for assisting black farmers, La Marque said the move would be violating the Disaster Management Act.
“It is the act of 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.