Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Patrice Motsepe says South African farmers, both black and white, need to be safe in the knowledge that their right to land and assets are protected.
He told AgriSA's annual congress in Pretoria that he believed in the future of agriculture and its related industries, but that everyone in South Africa would have to work together to ensure that the marginalised and those without hope were included in the economy.
Motsepe, who delivered his remarks mostly in Afrikaans, said: "Every single farmer, black and white, as well as all participants in the agri-economy must keep in their mind, and according to their judgment... that they feel that the industry has a future, that they want to invest and that their right to land and assets are protected, and will be protected... doesn't matter what politicians think."
He added his voice to what AgriSA president Dan Kriek had earlier said, when he implored President Cyril Ramaphosa to acknowledge the scourge of violent crime on farms and in rural areas. Kriek told delegates that he knew Ramaphosa was acutely aware of the high levels of crime, but that it was of utmost importance that the head of state talked publicly about the matter. Ramaphosa was roundly criticised recently after his remarks in New York, where he was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that there were "no killings of... white farmers in South Africa".
Motsepe said farmers of all hues were affected by murder and crime and that promises made by politicians and the government "doesn't make sense". He added that South Africans' lived experiences of crime "is the truth", and that it was also having a serious impact on people and how they see their future in the country.
"I want to say our farmers are not on their own, especially after the events of the last couple of months. I know our farmers, specifically those farmers that feeds our country and makes sure we have a future, sometimes feel that they truly are on their own."
Although the agricultural community plays an important economic role, Motsepe said there remained a need to involve black farmers in the industry. He praised AgriSA for its initiatives to ensure transformation of the sector, and said that South Africa would not have a future if the marginalised, excluded and unemployed were not empowered.
'Mr President, you are a normal farmer, like us'
"No political party in the world will remain in power if the government does not create the environment to create job opportunities for the marginalised - there won't be any future. It's not a secret that the most successful countries in the world are those that created the correct legal and regulatory environment where the private sector can work, so that there is confidence for investments, so that people can create a future for themselves and their children," Motsepe said.
Earlier Kriek, who serves on Ramaphosa's advisory panel on land reform, quoted extensively from speeches by Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, as well as from the Constitution. He said organised agriculture was willing and able to work with government towards land reform. He also directed a message to the president, urging him to appoint a national director of public prosecutions who would prosecute criminals "without fear or favour".
"I have the greatest respect for our president, he is a farmer and he is a member of Wildlife Ranching SA. He is one of us. I know, Mr President, that you have an intimate knowledge of agriculture in South Africa. I speak to your counterparts at Wildlife Ranching SA and they tell me how you interact with them. You are a normal farmer, like us. You know about farm murders and violence, I know you know this intimately.
"But we want to hear you say it, because you are the president of our country, you are one of us, you must take the lead. We must understand, and I know that you do, that we all suffer from collective trauma."
Agri SA represents some 27 000 farmers, nine provincial agriculture unions, 25 commodity organisations and 35 corporate members.