Unrest highlights importance of teamwork and community relationships

KwaZulu-Natal’s rural areas that already had strong farming networks and mutually supportive relationships between diverse sections of their communities often fared better at preventing or minimising damages caused by the mid-July unrest in the province.

This was the general sentiment of presenters during Landbouweekblad’s recent webinar titled Lessons from the KZN unrest: managing the fallout and stopping it from happening again.

Sandy La Marque, CEO of the KZN Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), told attendees that a key lesson learned during the unrest included the importance of a town’s farming community engaging and communicating with other communities of that town.

“This was really helpful for being able to check the accuracy of the numerous social media posts doing the rounds at that time. It also helped coordinate and strengthen the joint security efforts between the different sections of a community,” she said.   

La Marque added that, immediately following the unrest and based on advice from its member farmers’ associations at ground level, Kwanalu had begun efforts not only to help unrest-impacted rural communities and their local economies to recover, but simultaneously also to encourage and support the formation of new, and strengthening of existing, mutually supportive networks and relationships within these communities.

This included the establishment of a Humanitarian Aid Programme to assist farmworkers, smallholder farmers, and vulnerable communities, and a Rural Entrepreneurship Programme to provide leadership- and business training, and mentorship, to youth and women in KZN’s rural towns.

Adrian Chaning-Pearce, a committee member of the Pongola Community Policing Forum, told the webinar that coordinated efforts between sections of his town, including the municipality, farmers, business owners, and taxi association, proved remarkably successful at preventing any major unrest-related violence and damages there.

Photo: According to presenters during Landbouweekblad’s recent webinar on lessons learned from the mid-July unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, establishing and maintaining strong relationships between the farming and other communities of rural towns everywhere is critical for effectively dealing with any similar unrest in the future.

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