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At the Free State Agriculture (FSA) annual congress in Bloemfontein from left are Prof Danie Brand, Director of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of the Free State, Dan Kriek, President of Agri SA, Francois Wilken, President of FSA, and Dr Frans Cronje, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Race Relations. Photo: Frikkie Kapp
8 August 2019
Get involved and join hands to overcome the challenges. This was the plea of Francois Wilken, President of Free State Agriculture (FSA), to farmers and the sector at FSA’s annual congress of 2019.
“If we in agriculture do not realize that we have to stand together, a big surprise awaits us,” he said. “Are we going to sit back and hope someone is going to address problems on our behalf or will we constructively be part of possible solutions?”
Wilken called on farmers to reflect on their role in organized agriculture. The theme of FSA’s congress, which took place on 7 and 8 August 2019 in Bloemfontein, was What is my role as member of Free State Agriculture?
“How do I position myself to survive, move forward on and be a success? What am I going to do?,” Wilken asked. “All day I hear: What are you (FSA) going to do now? What are you saying? But I rarely hear: What should we do now? What can we do now to turn things around?”
He encouraged farmers to seek opportunities, help their communities develop and put pressure on the government to improve service delivery.
According to Wilken, agriculture’s biggest challenges are property rights, expropriation without compensation (EWC), land reform, safety and the economy.
He believes “virtually all land reform projects by the government have failed” and that farmers, agribusinesses and organizations have achieved several success stories, but these receive little attention.
Prof Danie Brand, Director of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of the Free State, and Dr Frans Cronje, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Race Relations, were guest speakers at the congress. They addressed the land debate and EWC.
Brand believes the constitution will be amended. “The question is rather how it will be amended,” he said.
According to him, there however still are reasons why one can remain calm about this. Brand said it would still take a long time for any legal change to take place and that a constitutional amendment would not in fact make a change in the legal position of property rights.
Cronje fears that if EWC is not beaten, the country is doomed to a future of failure, poverty and chaos.
According to him, it is possible to prevent it, provided certain steps are followed and strategically worked. He said it is important to get your analysis right and be informed, to organize, to draw lines in the sand and know what you stand for, to actively defend your mandate and to apply pressure in an orderly manner.
Cronje however said no one was going to fight on behalf of farmers. “The only people that will get you out of this, is yourselves. It is your organisation and you determine what happens in it. It is a mirror and a reflection of you.”