Farmers discuss managing change, landowners’ rights
WITH so much uncertainty regarding the rights of landowners in South Africa, farmers are naturally concerned that their land, much of which has been in their families for several generations, could be taken from them by the state in order to redistribute to others.
At the Border Eastern Livestock Farmers’ Day, held at its premises just outside Alexandria last Thursday, businessman John Westwood and non-executive director of Hobson & Co, a Brit who now lives in the farming area of Salem, drew on his vast experience as director of six companies in the UK regarding change.
“Change is inevitable and unavoidable,” he told the meeting that consisted of about 150 local farmers from the area.
“Change is not an option. A company can fall down in a moment,” he said, adding that managing the rate of change was the important thing. He said companies that cannot change will die.
“The way you manage change is your competitive advantage,” he said.
Westwood said that globalisation had made the markets more competitive and that the idea was to attract long-term investment and global food sales.
To emphasise his point Westwood spoke specifically of British book-seller WH Smith and its reaction to Amazon, when the company asked who would want to purchase books online.
“They had to change to match what Amazon was doing, knowledge being the key,” he said.
As for political unrest, Westwood said that Johannesburg was not the crime capital of the world and that London, New York and all major cities around the world suffered from crime. As for the economy, he said that no one knows where the economy is going.
He said that strategy is about competition and that, when you have an idea, your main question should be “who can stop me?”, and then work around that.
“Things are moving fast. Can you move at that speed?” he asked. “It’s about leadership, not management. Well managed is not good enough. How well are you led?”
The second speaker on the day was SA Institute of Race Relations director and Centre for Risk Analysis CEO Frans Cronje.
Cronje spoke of the land issue and how the old National Party forced the ANC into the arms of the then Soviet Union in the ’50s and ’60s.
“Lenin advocated that colonists must be removed,” said Cronje, something the current ANC was still attempting to do, and that the harsh transitions between former presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma allowed the left wing to loot the state.
“But state capture is not our biggest problem,” he said, adding that the push for expropriation without compensation was a massive obstacle and that the government would be driven into financial crisis.
“Now we have a battle of ideas,” he said, citing racial incitement as a real problem and others attempting to convince the government that public opinion is against them.
But Cronje also stated that agriculture is not on the minds of South Africans.
“It is time to stand up and fight,” he said, “and cause a shift in public opinion. There is absolutely no reason for whites and blacks to be fighting each other. What is required is the government to implement proper policies for all, not just one race group.
“We should be asking, what is better for all South Africans?”
STRATEGY PLANNING: Change and land expropriation were the main topics of last week’s Border Eastern Livestock Farmers’ Day, held at the Border Eastern Livestock premises. From left are Frans Cronje from the SA Institute of Race Relations, local farmers and event organisers Justin Stirk and Brent McNamara, as well as former British businessman John Westwood