Driving into that venue early Thursday morning and noticing some massive and expensive off-pavement and off-road vehicles of all sorts, as well as a sprinkling of medium sized mostly German saloons, I was convinced Julius and a few other new black farmers were in town for the agriculture and farming conference.
It was after all The Plantation; a leisure resort situated curiously deep in the Horizon Bay jungle on the outskirts of the city – admittedly a popular venue among the elite, especially for soft serve social events such as weddings.Indeed, even the conference sitting converged in the “Chapel” – just the kind of accommodation with fresh allure to the new citizens, particularly the type that “didn’t struggle to be poor”!The theme of the Absa Bank sponsored Wildlife Annual Conference: “Economics of Ecology” also had a gorgeous bourgeois feel about it, just the kind of jargon that would sit well with the new land lords.And so, when I hurriedly drove down that dirt road, hit the venue gate and then spent another darn 15 minutes trying to find parking literally under a thick shrubbery forest some 100m down the road, I anticipated a fun time at this conference, especially one with that kind of topic and whose feature involved a debate on rhino poaching.Even the line up of key note speakers from across the country, clearly devoid of any hint of brotherhood, did not curb my anticipation and enthusiasm to witness the new landlords exchanging glances and crying “Amandla” at every call to get those Chinese and Vietnamese to stop providing a highly lucrative black market (no pun intended) for our rhino horns.
A long one short, I was disappointed. There was not a single black farmer in sight. Hold on. I lie. There was one, just one African male and possibly two or three other “non whites” and all of whom didn’t look anything like the new landlords – but that was about all!
Why does it matter? Well, ask Julius why he has abandoned pop politics to take on farming. It’s about “Mayibuye iAfrika! Izwe lethu!” As it is, there are already a few of highly recognised black landlords with farms just about everywhere, among them tycoons such as Cyril Ramaphosa and former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni.
In Port Elizabeth I know a few blacks, some of them friends and acquaintances; who either already own farms or suchlike “plots” or who are in the process of acquiring same.
And so, I expected quite a few of the new landlords to pitch up for what otherwise was a perfect knowledge sharing platform with a national impact outside a school or university classroom.
The topics were informative and illustrative: “Invest in change” by Dr Flippie Cloete (University of North West), “National Policy & and Parks Management Plans” by Dr Mike Knight (SA National Parks), “Sustainability: Partnerships and Programs” by Dr Johan Joubert (Shamwari Group), “Financial Solutions: Dr Ernst Janovsky (Absa Bank), “Biodiversity” by Japie Buckle (Sa National Biodiversity Institute) and Conservation Corridors: Management Effectiveness” by Matthew Norval (Wilderness Foundation.)
From Dr Cloete, these new landlords could have, for example; learned about a ‘comparative economic case study of switching from cattle to game ranching” looking specifically at the two models – “ecological versus financial.”!
By the end of the day they would have been fluent in lingo of tragelophus strepsiceros, redunca fulvorufura or even kobus ellipsiprymnu – a set of scientific terms that are basically the a.k.a for Kudu, Mountain Reedbuck and Waterbuck respectively.