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TRANSFORMATION is a change of heart

May 2018


Amidst the turning of the season I am also aware of a change of season in the people in our country. Some are positive – as if spring is in the air with new growth and new hope – but some are also autumn and winterish, with drying leaves and cold winds blowing.

The new president of the country has appointed a few new (or is it old?) ministers, who have started spring cleaning! New boards are being appointed and old political appointees are being replaced and some are even prosecuted. This is all positive, but I trust that the new seedlings will in this regard yield good returns. 

Grain SA is playing the role of rendering support in this rebuilding and restoration. I was also heartened by the efforts of individuals to take the unity in agriculture forward. However, it is a steep road, but we know it well. The mountain-top experience of such a long, uphill battle is what we live and work for.

Some of the obstacles in this uphill battle comprise of individuals who make it their life’s work to oppose all progress. If they cannot take all credit for themselves, they oppose everything. That is a pity. Something heavily burdening my heart is the issue of transformation. I read with great interest Max du Preez’s interpretation of why racial discrimination in theory, can only flow from white to black and not the other way around.

It provides good insight, but it does not mean that I understand everything or that I am in agreement with it. Nevertheless, I did gain a better insight. We spend hours in meetings and planning sessions on how to address transformation. It is, however, always one sided: From white to black.

The past month I attended various meetings during which the idea of reverse transformation came to mind. Maybe it was Mr Mosiuoa Lekota asking in Parliament who the ‘our people’ so often referred to, were, that sparked it.

Am I not also ‘our people’, I started thinking to myself? My ancestors fled France in 1688 because of their religion and came to settle here in South Africa. We came to farm and to evangelise. If I think about it carefully, it is still the same today. Yet, there are still fellow citizens who do not want to transform and accept me as a fellow African. I have crossed the river and accepted them as fellow citizens, but I am still not accepted by many.

Grain SA still has a long way to go to transform completely, but also to play a role in helping all of society to transform. Permanent transformation is a change of heart. It is not the completion of a few projects – and hey presto! Similarly, people’s dignity is not restored by simply giving them a piece of land (with or without compensation). 

Those who have received farms without title deeds from the state, do not succeed in farming and have definitely not been accorded dignity while being labelled as ‘failed farmers’. Land reform therefore, entails a whole lot more than just handing out land.

We have witnessed a higher level of dignity in those farmers who have harvested their own commercial yield on 1 ha of land. They can care for themselves and also for their families. Therein resides human dignity. Government employees who do not want to attend to a person just because of his/her skin colour, have not earned their own dignity and are not promoting transformation.

Yet we still believe that winter will pass at a certain stage and when spring comes, we can once again plant and harvest to make headway. 

Publication: May 2018

Section: Features