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December 2014


JANNIE DE VILLIERS, uitvoerende hoofbestuurder/CEO

2014 is winding down like a bad memory dating from my army days. When, dead tired on a warm day, you run into the army base with 20 kg on your back; your thoughts fixed on a refreshingly cold shower and drinking a lot of water…Then the corporal for no reason under the sun that you can think of, gives the order: “About turn!”

Everyone is bewildered, uncertain; thinking bad, negative thoughts and some other things I cannot mention now. Suddenly the Swartberg mountains seem much higher than a moment before when you came running downhill.

The past congresses of Agri SA and AFASA were almost like the south gate at the Oudtshoorn Infantry School. We had just started thinking that the year’s hard work was being rewarded – we had arrived – our Land Reform Plan was on paper at long last and everyone was on board…When the politicians called: “About turn!”

Suddenly the March 2015 date for the submission of the details changed to: “Start next week!” Others on the other hand shouted: “Moratorium on farm evictions, irrespective!” These actions of the last few weeks of 2014 quickly indicated to me what the pace and instructions in 2015 are going to be.

Tired from running or not, heavily burdened or not, dirty and sweaty or not, did not count for points. “De Villiers, the mountain ahead of us must be crossed!” The thing that made the difference during my army days was that one soldier who started singing. It was that platoon leader who encouraged the tired troops with a song, rallying them into a united group, leading their thoughts away from negativity.

A lot of it you will still remember it. Never, ever, did a corporal try to stop the singing in such a situation, because he knew he was achieving his goal – persist in unity.

The reason I am sharing this story, is to intone the first note for the year ahead. To call out for unity and persistence among our producers, and to plead that we should not start bickering among ourselves, but to rather focus on the goals of sustainable, profitable grain production to feed our country and its people and to ensure a future for our children and grandchildren.

The Swartberg mountain range of Oudtshoorn is going to be replaced by land reform, climate change, no crop insurance, political fickleness and excessive greed from corrupt people. These are the issues which we, with our tired bodies, will be facing in 2015.

Where I’m now sitting in this airplane, writing this article, my thoughts go back to 1980 and I can only testify that we survived the “about turn” then; and we became better men as a result. I can only hope and believe that it will be the same this time. It was that which made us good soldiers and what today make us good producers.

Ha-di-hê oh, ha-di-hô

Publication: December 2014

Section: Features