Where is the middle?

Jannie de Villiers
CEO, Grain SA jannie@grainsa.co.za

Two of our young people in agriculture who are employed by Agri SA, Mihlali Xhala and Jolanda Andrag, recently wrote to President Ramaphosa asking him to please help define the ‘middle of the road’ again and to establish values and standpoints so that we in agriculture do not need to choose between views to the left and to the right.

The possible consequences of land reform and the pressure on profitability of the past year have almost gone into recess to make room for farm violence. When the status quo is threatened, the tendency is to jump to the left or the right. What the two women did so proficiently was to formulate a plea to define the ‘middle’ once more.

Where is the middle? What does it look like there? What can we do to retain it if things are going crazy? These are all very difficult questions. The leftists and rightists are usually so vocal that nobody is in any doubt about where they stand.

Grain SA would like to claim that we are somewhere close to the ‘middle’ to show people the way. For that reason we as active citizens of the country choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

We organise ourselves and fund ourselves. We choose to identify the problems in the agricultural sector and then pursue and address the solutions reasonably and with facts through discussion.

Grain SA is here to stay – we don’t back away from problems – because our DNA is grounded in what we learn from the Bible and in what we believe.

We feel that everybody is welcome to use the opportunity to find a future in this country by working hard, using the land to earn a living and providing the country and its people with food. However, respect for each other and each other’s property is required here in the ‘middle’. The attitude should be one of cooperation to everybody’s benefit, and not just selfish entitlement. Violence against other people is not part of the ‘middle’.

In last month’s editorial I referred to the ‘centre will hold’ expression of Uncle George Bizos, but the centre can only hold if we do not hesitate in continuing to define it and continue to live it as a community.

Even if the president of the country does not listen to the request by our young people (and the rest of us), Grain SA will continue to indicate the ‘middle of the road’. After all, we owe this to everyone who, as members, walk this road with us and prepare it for our children so that they can follow our example.

To those who have experienced severe pressure over the past few months with regard to their own safety or had to endure emotional battering simply because of who they are, and not necessarily because of what they do: ‘Don’t allow these things to make you lose your way. Let us encourage each other, and if you feel that Grain SA is no longer in the “middle”, come and help us to make the necessary correction.’

I would like to conclude this editorial with a quote that Louw Steytler regularly used during meetings: ‘Bad things happen if good people do nothing.’