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A World Cup approach to land reform

August 2010

Dr Kobus Laubscher, CEO

The recent, very successful Soccer World Cup (SWC) tournament has a large number of lessons for how organised agriculture should approach the so called land issue. The One Goal initiative creates an opportunity with which grain producers can score points with regard to ordinary general goodwill.

South Africa’s first bid to host the Soccer World Cup perished with one official who brought out his vote in opposition to his mandate. The 2006 Soccer World Cup outcome forced us to rethink and to delve deeper for original suggestions to persuade the world that South Africa was capable of hosting such a spectacular event.

Involvement in a Soccer World Cup tournament includes many facets that have to be presented in a multi-phased manner. The most important is to start off correctly and to be capable of selling a dream to and then to persuade the “buyers” to make the dream come true. The “selling” ability encompassed proving convincingly that the country could deliver more than just the minimum requirements of the principal.

With the acceptance of the bid it does not mean a new start – the original plan based on the proposal must then become reality. In the execution of the plan there are no substitutes for good planning, hard work and painstakingly keeping to the agreed plan – iron discipline!

Land reform has quite a number of parallels with the run-up to, preparation for and presentation of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Initial plans were presented with over optimistic expectations to be able to give execution to more than just the actual resolution of inequalities of the past. By participation in the process the many potholes of the initial plan could be highlighted, but the government nevertheless continued and now after a series of failures acknowledged that the initial plan did not work. After that, there had to be more substance with regard to the what and the how. If one, however, analyses the development pace of the presumed restructuring, it seems as if the government now wants to take shortcuts to achieve the eventual vision. There cannot, however, be shortcuts if one wishes to utilise the following lessons from the successful hosting of the 2010 Soccer World Cup:

  • Co-operation between different participants with no place for individualism. Agriculture, and especially land reform, is multi-dimensionally dependant on a whole number of departments and interest groups to make the end product attractive and workable, and especially if taking into consideration that land reform is a means to an end – equality, but without surrendering food security.
  • Continuous communication between all role-players in terms of how and what with the purpose of keeping all involved informed and on the same page.
  • A will and ability to, after in depth and sincere evaluation of the progressagainst previously agreed goals, make adjustments that are timeous enough not to delay work following on.
  • An urgency to complete and work fearlessly to achieve the end goal before the target time.
  • Discipline to stick to the plan that was agreed upon.
  • A clear understanding that even with the best intentions the Soccer World Cup cannot take place unless the structures are in place.
  • Continuously be aware of the scope of what everyone should be occupied with – a mega project where the expected outcomes of the plan are not an unaffordable luxury.

With the structures in place the real business of the Soccer World Cup can begin. The game of competition between the best of the best! The game itself is also controlled. The rules of the game are enforced by the referee who must remain an invisible participant. The more visible the referee, the more difficult the game. With reference to land reform the South African Constitution is the referee – all are equal before it.

What should organised agriculture do? It should insist on the establishment of a plan with an end goal which must be negotiated and agreed upon by all. The game is about agriculture’s ability to sustainably produce affordable and quality food and commercial agriculture’s responsibility in this regard. With this plan in hand, the next step is implementation with a view to produce food in the future harmoniously (to be able to play). Be hard on the standards and implement the current activity to meet today’s challenges, but be adaptable with regard to those activities that will determine future survival.

Be fierce with regard to an overall plan before initiating implementation. There is no time and place for a half baked recommendation. If agreement is reached on a plan, drive the implementation to come to an end result that will make a proper game possible. Take the chance and play and enjoy the game! The One Goal initiative of FIFA likewise has application on the members of Grain SA or in fact on all participants in the grain value chain. Why can it not be expected that each participant in the next three months donate one ton of grain, or the equivalent, to a central fund for application to the education of underprivileged children? Just think what an honour it would be to in this manner be part of a “greater game”?

Publication: August 2010

Section: Editorial