THERE is a stalemate between communal farmers in the Omaheke region and the predominately white farmers who buy livestock from them. The impasse was caused by disagreements over the price of cattle and the manner in which the buying and selling should take place.
The communal farmers feel they are being ripped off by the white farmers doing business with them. This dates back to colonial days. Before independence, it was even worse as communal farmers literally had to beg white farmers to buy their livestock in order for them to have hard cash to send their children to school, buy food and to pay their medical bills.
Since independence, not a lot has changed although some of the derogatory terms such as kaffir are no longer openly being used at auctions, but the most important aspect of who sets the price remains the same. The white farmer sets the price when he is buying from a black farmer and also sets the price when he sells.
In fact, unless something drastic is done, the situation will remain the same.
Firstly, communal farmers simply do not have enough land to keep their livestock and thus have to sell most of their weaners to preserve their grazing areas. The farmers that have the land and can afford to keep large numbers of livestock are the white farmers. In most cases, the white farmers buy weaners from communal farmers and keep them until the price is right because they have the land.
Secondly, banks and companies such as Agra and Karoo that finance the buying of livestock in most cases require collateral and most communal farmers do not have collateral because they do not have much in their names. Simply put, communal farmers will never be in a position to become buyers.
Thirdly, white farmers have formed a cartel and control the prices of livestock. Even at auctions where they have to bid, they agree before coming to the auction and set prices.
This situation, where white farmers rip off communal farmers is not news to many people. And yet nobody is doing anything about it. Of course, in this country it appears everything is fine if the white farmer is not on the receiving end.
My point is that the situation is not a healthy one and something needs to be done before the communal farmers’ patience runs out. The honesty and goodwill of white farmers is crucial if we are to preserve peace and stability in the Omaheke region.