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Nation in Conversation asks: ‘How do we revive the platteland?’

  • 16 May 2019
  • 1817
  •  press-release

Passion was the overriding theme of the session in which a panel consisting of: Leona Archary, head of agriculture at Bigen Africa; Theo Venter, political analyst, NWU; Requier Wait, head of economics and trade at Agri SA; Mohammed Bhabha, director of In Transformation Initiative; and Vusi Khanyile, executive chairperson of the Thebe Investment Corporation shared their views on the issue.

Chris sketched a picture of failing platteland towns where issues of bad governance, migration and socio-economic factors have led to devastating and dire realities in many small towns.

Theo explained how there was actually a larger demographic at play where small businesses like shop owners also move from small towns to the big cities, but that the vacuums are being filled by new players like “Ethiopians and Somalis.”
Requier said that for the current situation in these towns to change, the impetus had to come from the local communities themselves and that strategies had be formulated from local government level to be sustainable.

The panel discussion sketched a grim reality, which made for compelling viewing. However, Mohammed reminded everyone that the “political climate has changed and there is a will to work together to come up with solutions. Let’s identify one or two pilot projects here and make a difference and come back next year and report on it,” he said. The organisation Mohammed belongs to, the In Transformation Initiative, which includes Roelf Meyer, has been instrumental in advising President Cyril Ramaphosa in formulating growth strategies and initiatives going forward after the recent election.

Chris relieved some of the doom and gloom by sharing some good news about initiatives where the community came together to find effective, immediate solutions and future strategies in places like Harrismith and Kenton-on-Sea.
During the audience participation session, a member of the audience and resident of Lichtenburg shared the frustrations of the area and the conditions under which they live and do business, and how the town of Coligny has come together across racial lines to find solutions that work.

If you have ever wondered about the state of the platteland, this session of Nation in Conversation is a real eye-opener, which not only captures the misery and disengagement of the communities in these areas, but also looks at solutions and strategies that can be implement to bring about a platteland revival.

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