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Pretoria - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, applauded the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) for “challenging some preconceptions about black farmers and changing attitudes throughout society”.

Speaking at a gala dinner and awards ceremony in Kempton Park, Ramaphosa said since its formation more than seven years ago, Afasa has been shining a light on the historical challenges faced by black farmers who were systematically placed on the margins of agriculture and agribusiness, solely on the basis of their skin colour.

“AFASA is challenging some of the preconceptions about black farmers and changing attitudes throughout society. It is demonstrating that black South Africans are able to make a success of owning and managing land, and that they are able to farm successfully, [to] ensure food security and sustain livelihoods,” said Ramaphosa in a speech prepared for delivery.

“They [Afasa] are redefining what is meant in South Africa by the word ‘farmer’. And yet the ability of black farmers to work the land successfully is constrained by the accumulated disadvantages of centuries of dispossession and deprivation. This is in addition to the challenges they face when the forces of nature and forces of the market conspire to cut production and undermine profitability.”

The event attended by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana and President of Afasa Vuyokazi Mahlati, among other dignitaries

Ramaphosa emphasised that South Africa’s land must be shared, and said that his government would support the farmers.

“The country’s land must be shared among those who wish to work it, and those who wish to work it must be given the support and encouragement to be successful. This is necessary to correct a past wrong. It is also necessary to ensure a fair and prosperous future for all,” he said.

“We have embarked on a programme of accelerated land reform that aims to redistribute more land, at a faster pace, to black South Africans; that will ensure tenure security for the insecure; and that will change the distorted patterns of development, both in our cities and our countryside.”

The president said the ongoing heated discourse around the expropriation of land without compensation, as a mechanism to redistribute South Africa’s land, was welcome.

“Through accelerated land redistribution, and with the necessary support from the state, more and more black farmers will emerge, unlocking the economic potential both of land and of people. We must work together as a nation to make our land reform programme a success. This is the time for South Africans to find each other, not fight each other,” he said.

“Black and white farmers must together, and working with government, build a better future not just in the agrarian economy but in society at large. We are convinced that ensuring an equitable distribution of land is at the heart of creating a united and cohesive nation.”

African News Agency/ANA