Businesswoman heads up South Africa’s emerging farmer organisation

The appointment of Dr Vuyo Mahlati to the position of president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa), was announced at a gala dinner outside Pretoria (SA) on 24 October. Dr Mahlati takes over from Mike Mlengana, who is now director-general of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Dr Mahlati was raised in the rural Eastern Cape province and educated at a farm school and a mission school before completing her BSc at the University of the Western Cape. She read her MSc in Social Policy and Planning at the London School of Economics, and her obtained her doctorate from Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape. Her specialist field is the agricultural value chain, and value adding in agriculture.

In her acceptance speech Mahlati told farmers she had been appointed on the [52nd] anniversary of Zambia’s independence, which she hoped augured well for change in her term.

“We have failed to deal with positive transformation [in SA] and we must fix this. If we get it wrong, we get it wrong for future generations.”

Afasa’s new president is a businesswoman, who is committed to working with business. Bridging the gaps between black and white, between old and young, between men and women is the way to drive change and reduce poverty.

“Our responsibility goes beyond land reform, our responsibility is about us making sure that agriculture is at the centre of the revitalisation of the economy. We must see this as something more than food security,” said Mahlati. “I am a woman who believes this has to be done.”

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