Farm­ers dis­cuss man­ag­ing change, landown­ers’ rights

Talk of the Town - - Opinion - ROB KNOWLES

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

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