Anger over Cape MEC’s withdrawal of R8.5m in Covid-19 relief to black farmers
Cape Town - Black women and farmers organisations in the Western Cape’s wine industry have reacted angrily to Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer’s withdrawal of an offer of R8.5 million in Covid-19 relief to black farmers.
Meyer announced the action a week after the Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas (Casidra), a public entity under his department, ran an advert in the Cape Argus on December 17 offering support to black wine farm or brand owners in the wine grape industry.
Meyer said: “This conflicts with the policy position of the DA-run provincial government. I have instructed Casidra to withdraw the advertisement and apologise to farmers and the agricultural sector in the Western Cape. I too apologise for the publication of the advert by Casidra.”
At the same time, the Southern Africa Agricultural Initiative (Saai) chaired by Theo de Jager said it would campaign against the advert and enforce non-racial principles at all levels.
De Jager said: “Such a campaign could include legal action, the collection of a million signatures, political pressure inside and outside of Parliament, public questions, an awareness programme, as well as an overseas campaign.”
The chief executive of Sesfikile Wine services, Nondumiso Pikashe, said: “The department is contradicting itself. The department has marketing support for black-owned business, so racially-based support is not new.
“The withdrawal of the offer is a hurtful and sad state of affairs. Women and black people are supposed to be a priority. The playing fields are not even close to being level with white farmers,” said Pikashe.
African Roots Wines chief executive Vivian Kleyhans said: “Now it's obvious that they don't care about black people and economic inclusion. We struggle because they work against us.
“They have no idea how hard it is to build a business without finances. Banks are not interested in financing us and we are not fourth generation businesses,” said Kleyhans.
Three black farmers unions, the African Farmers Association of SA (Afasa), the Black Farmers Association of SA and the National African Farmers Union said in a joint statement: “The Western Cape wine and fruit economy is 25 years into a democratic South Africa and unable to showcase black talent enjoying continued success.”
Provincial spokesperson for Afasa Ismail Motala said: “The only claim this sub sector of the agricultural economy has to transformation is the large number of failed equity schemes which have relegated black people to zero economic prosperity.”
ANC provincial spokesperson on Agriculture Pat Marran said: “MEC Meyer has previously admitted to not having stats on agricultural land ownership broken down according to race. This is as a result of DA policy which says that non-racialism means the denial of race itself.
“We are calling on the national minister to intervene and save black farmers in the Western Cape,” said Marran.
EFF provincial chairperson Melikhaya Xego said: “Black small-scale farmers are the most hard hit by the pandemic. It would be disingenuous not to consider them before anyone else. We are, however, not surprised by the stance of the DA which is trying very hard to outshine the right-wing FF-plus.”