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In spite of an increasingly tumultuous agricultural climate the 121st annual congress of the TAU SA congress this year enjoyed particular interest. Discussions took place in very clear terms on the problems facing South Africa’s agricultural sector. The congress was attended by international media and also several representatives from foreign embassies interested in the viewpoint and future strategy of the Transvaal Agricultural Union.
Louis Meintjes was again elected president of TAU SA for the coming year. In his presidential address he in no uncertain terms highlighted the dangers of land expropriation without compensation. The unintended negative off-spin of land grabbing was also emphasised: “Children who do not have enough food to eat – food produced efficiently and on a commercial scale – will experience deficient growth with concomitant problems,” he said.
Regarding the true reasons for EWC he said it was clear that the ANC was riding the land question hard in an effort to regain lost support.
Meintjes also advised the government to take note of the recent past and said: “Members of TAU SA did not ‘steal’ land. During the 1993 negotiations clear settlement agreements were reached regarding land ownership. There is no reason to tamper with the Constitution now and to intimate that land that had been settled on, was stolen.”
Meintjes also said commercial farmers had already invested millions in the uplifting of black farmers but the ANC showed no goodwill towards agriculture in view of this involvement.
Theo de Jager, president of the World Agricultural Union, congratulated TAU SA on the manner in which they involve structures in, and also outside agriculture, to support the cause of the farmers.
Adv Roelof du Plessis, SC, of the Brooklyn Advocate Chambers, had some good news for anxious farmers after doing intensive research into the legal aspects of land reform. He discussed mechanisms to fight land grabbing by means of legislation.
Dr Pieter Mulder, previous leader of the Freedom Front Plus, said that the government was using a “scapegoat recipe” to try and regain lost support. “This is when myths are fabricated and the past misrepresented to justify actions of the present. Nifty plans are of no use when negotiating with the government. You have to have something up your sleeve to bargain with. He says farmers can follow various routes – food security, the Constitution, and parliamentary and non-parliamentary supportive avenues.
Gareth van Onselen is a political commentator, columnist and is involved with the Institute for Race Relations. He sketched an unsettling picture of the cost of anarchy for South Africa. “The backlog on maintenance of our roads amounts to more than a trillion rand and is increasing exponentially. We will never be able to catch up again,” he says.