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July 2018

Jannie de Villiers, CEO

The kitchen remains a pretty hot place, regardless whether it is a SuperSport studio or a meeting in the Grain Building. We always refer to Africa not being a place for sissies. Similarly, South Africa is not really for people who cannot work in the hot kitchens of our world.

Heat has the ability to warm you: Hot under the collar or warm when one gets cold and indifferent. However, heat also has the quality to change the form of an object if the heat is focused on one spot long enough. Items can melt into one another and form something new. Maybe that is what we are busy doing: Forming something new in agriculture?

My Grade 9 teacher also strongly believed in this. My history marks were not to her taste, so with her excellent tennis forearm, she put so much heat on my behind that I immediately changed my attitude towards the subject. Such a process brings changes, but goes hand in hand with pain.

As I move about the boardrooms of our sector, I sense a great deal of pain. To a large extent the main topic is the pain of the past. There are a large variety of plans to treat these pains, but unfortunately, they cause new pains. Once again, I became aware of the restoration process in our country. Restoration is actions focused on making something better than it was. Better for whom? one might ask.

Our focus must be on executing the restoration in such a manner that we do not have to start all over when one party considers the matter closed. This way we do not win.

The secret in the kitchen is to finish the dish before the roast is spoilt. Burnt offerings leave a bad taste in the mouth. It also destroys the nutritional value of food. The food becomes worthless. I trust that the leaders on either side of the kitchen discussions will know when the dish is ready and usable and that they will stop before the roast is spoilt.

I am also perceiving another thing in our society. There are quite a lot of people who get tired. Tired as in sick: Physically, but also psychologically. There is a hunger for good news; something that works and something that can take the country forward. Good news that lasts longer than just the next news bulletin about some kind of disaster or setback that is related with such relish to ensure that you do not feel too positive.

Those with a support network usually get over it and recover soon, but where single mothers have to continue alone and/or family are not close by, it is hard to cope. We all need a support network. I do not see the temperature in South Africa’s kitchens cooling down soon and therefore my advice is that you thank those who support you properly and take good care of them.

During a recent leadership training session, one of the lecturers of the Grain Academy, Dr René Uys, pointed out that most likely the single biggest shortcoming in the make-up of producers who participate in debates and negotiations at national level was the ability to listen and control personal emotions during meetings.

Our inability to understand the emotions and needs of other parties, prevents us from influencing the direction of the debate and to steer it to common ground so that we may find solutions that can take us forward. Everyone in the country needs the parties participating in, especially the land debate, to meet one another – to the benefit of food security and a better future for all.

Publication: July 2018

Section: Features