Commercial farming ‘key to land reform’

14 January 2011

The establishment of successful black commercial farmers was key to land reform in South Africa, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told black and white commercial farmers during a visit to a farm in the Free State province.

Farmers such as Pitso Sekhoto, owner of the farm Makolobane Farmers Enterprise, had shown that land reform did work and that black farmers could become successful commercial farmers, Joemat-Pettersson said.

The farm in Senekal supplies milk to Woolworths retail stores nationally and also apples to fresh produce markets in Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg.

Sekhoto employs 34 farm-workers who own a 28 percent shareholding of his farm. During the apple harvest, the farm creates employment by hiring 66 additional workers for a three-month period from January to March.

During her visit, Joemat-Pettersson tried her hand at apple harvesting. After placing a few apples in a bag around her shoulder while standing on a ladder, while photographers clicked away, she asked: “How many apples does the man want in the bag?”

“Hy moet vol! (It must be full),” a choir of farmers answered almost simultaneously.

Joemat-Pettersson commended Sekhoto for giving workers shares in his farming enterprise without approaching the government for “equity money”.

“If a black commercial farmer can give 28 percent shares to workers and all farmers do that, we would go far in the country.”

The minister also commended Sekhoto’s neighbours and the Senekal community for “being one”.

“He is a successful farmer. You do not see him as a black farmer.”

Senekal farmer Marius de Jaeger described Joemat-Pettersson’s visit as “informative” and a high point for the region.

“She shows interest in farming, and it seems not to be another case of being heard but not seen for farmers.”

De Jaeger said farmers also had to make a living, and it seemed that the government realised that there had to be people producing food.

“People must be kept on farms; I can do nothing else,” he said, adding that the positive air of the minister’s visit towards agriculture was encouraging.

Another local farmer, Jess de Klerk, said the minister’s visit was encouraging, especially her calls for white and black farmers to work together.

De Klerk said it was good that the government wanted to stop using the term “emergent farmers” and to talk instead about only farmers.

“Pitso is ‘n boer in ons gemeenskap (Pitso is a farmer in our community)”, he said, adding that Sekhoto was an example, not just on the farm, but also in the way he got involved in the community.

Sapa