Land used to shift focus, says Wilken

6 August 2018


With its late night announcement last week that the Constitution will be changed, the ANC pushed the land debate beyond the point of reason. It becomes clearer that it is a power struggle within the ANC that divides the party and land is used to shift the focus. This is according to Francois Wilken, President of Free State Agriculture (FSA).

“People are deprived on municipal level by poor management and service delivery, which drives emotions and makes meaningful solution-driven conversation virtually impossible.”

According to him, recent public hearings were driven by political rhetoric and allowed a platform to be created where blatant racial and violence comments were made. “The negative effects on economic growth, food security and job creation are totally ignored,” he said.

FSA represented its members at the hearings in the Free State, on 2, 3 and 4 July 2018 in Botshabelo, Welkom and Phuthaditjhaba respectively, and opposed the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution.

“If it (the statements) is pressure from within the ANC to unite the party or neutralize the EFF, it’s going to cost the country a lot. By ignoring the parliamentary review process and not waiting for the findings, creates uncertainty and mistrust about the independence of the process.”

According to Wilken, FSA remains committed to the economically sustainable establishment of new producers within the guidelines set by the Constitution. “We are primarily food producers for an increasing urbanized population, and we therefore welcome any entrants to food production, and provide our knowledge to make it successful. The many farms in the Free State granted to emerging producers and which are unproductive, must be put into production as soon as possible.”

Gerhard Kriel, Chief Executive Officer of FSA, stressed the importance of the sector. "As Sisi Ntombela, the Free State Premier, pointed out at the Glen Agricultural College outside Bloemfontein on 25 July 2018, agriculture in the Free State is the cornerstone of economic growth in the province,” he said. “Ntombela said, among other things, ‘without agriculture, the Free State is nothing’.”

“We want our members to act proactively at ground level by using existing structures such as the Rural Safety Plan and in collaboration with South African Police Service to prevent illegal occupations,” Wilken said.