Zuma reassures farmers

The ANC's doors are open to South African farmers, party president Jacob Zuma said yesterday.

The ANC's doors are open to South African farmers, party president Jacob Zuma said yesterday.

"We should not be afraid to raise any matter," he told grain farmers at the annual Grain SA conference in Botha-ville in the Free State.

"No matter what kind of problem you have, I would like that relationship really to be strengthened."

The ANC president told farmers that the most important message he had for them was that "South Africa needs you" - which was greeted with applause.

He said the ANC was "mindful" of the fact that many farms and rural areas had to endure crime, especially violent crime.

"We must emphatically say that we should not tolerate criminal activity of any sort - the attacks on farmers, farm workers, labour tenants, or any citizens living in rural areas," he said.

"We must equally emphasise that we would not tolerate the abuse of farm workers and farm dwellers," he said, adding that farming communities should eradicate abuse where it was found.

Zuma said the ANC gave particular attention to agriculture because the sector was critical for the economic development of rural areas and the country as a whole. Agriculture in South Africa was not just about food security for the poor.

"It is central to the history of this land and its entire people. As a nation, agriculture is in our blood," he said.

Zuma said it was against this background that resolutions were recently taken at the party's conference in Polokwane to transform land and agriculture.

"It is a matter of concern that since 1994 commercial agriculture has continued to develop in a manner that is characterised by, amongst others, a growing monopoly ownership, capital intensity, job-shedding and casualisation of labour," said Zuma.

Various farmers at the conference, speaking in Zuma's home language isiZulu, urged Zuma to take the message to the government that "farmers also had rights in regards to their land and workers".

Zuma said it was in the interest of the farming communities, government and rural areas that all, including commercial farmers, work together to ensure a smooth redistribution of 30percent of agricultural land before 2014. - Sapa