Jay Naidoo: Responding to the haters

Jay Naidoo: Responding to the haters

Following the story about the Earthrise Trust assisting people in Naledi Village in the eastern Free State, there were a lot of negative comments on social media. JAY NAIDOO reponds

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Rustler’s Valley, eastern Free State.

I stand by all that I said in the interview with Health-e news in your article, “Hungry people are angry people” that you wrote on what’s happening in Rustlers Valley.

During the TRC hearings into apartheid atrocities against the majority of black South Africans a theme was that truth hurts but silence kills and it holds true for all times.

The Earthrise Trust was set up by three social activists, Kumi Naidoo, Gino Govender and myself and is based on voluntarism. We have spent our entire lives building social and labour movements that fight for justice and humanity dignity in society, in South Africa, Africa and globally. We do not do this as a job or career but as our calling in life. We need no endorsement, permission or commentary from anyone listed in your comments page on the article you wrote to achieve our shared cause.

Challenges facing humanity

The Earthrise Trust bought the old Rustlers Valley Farm in December 2013 as a place to encourage intergenerational dialogue on solutions to the challenges facing humanity particularly around issues of climate change and its devastating impact on food production that will worsen hunger and poverty in the world. But we also wanted to discuss the second phase of transformation of our democracy to achieve the constitutional rights of our people to land, economic participation and livelihoods.

Both my fellow trustees knew the original owner of the Rustlers Valley Farm, Frik Grobelar, and have nothing but praise for his integrity and his respect for the community. Frik allowed the Naledi community, who had been evicted from neighboring white owned farms, to stay on his property. He did promise 40 hectares of land to the community, which Earthrise Trust implemented as part of the agreement with his family when we bought the farm. That legacy does not need to be protected by the presumptuous hanger-ons that have written in your comments section. I have zero tolerance for their paternalistic arrogance.

That said, the Earthrise Trust respects that historical legacy. But a new vision has been co-created in partnership with Naledi Village that three years later stands on its own legacy. The community will speak on their own behalf. It needs no-one to speak on its behalf.

Racism

Anton Chaka with the first harvest of sugar beans.

Look around the Village and farm and you will find a community working hard to build its future, day by day. It is not hankering after the past. That’s what I respect. And am deeply committed to supporting.

On the racist statements that have been made on your page about our ‘Indian origins’ smacks of the worst aspects of apartheid. People of ‘Indian origin’ were banned from living in the Free State and would be arrested if they spent more than 48 hours in the province. To bring back those racist ghosts to our democracy is hate speech and unconstitutional. It reflects the shallowness of this group.

Secondly, it is a fact that water has been cut off by the owner of the neighbouring farm. I stand by the comment that this is racist and unconstitutional. Water is a natural resource that, alongside mineral resources, does not belong to the individuals who own land. It is held in trust by the SA government on behalf of the people. To charge a community for water is both unethical and illegal in terms of the law.

Despicable to link to farm attacks

Understandably, the community was greatly aggrieved and angry with the farmer concerned and wanted to confront him. But the community Elders persuaded them to follow the law and the matter was raised with the local government.

To associate this with the spate of criminal farm attacks is despicable and inflammatory in the worst respect. It is dangerous and insulting to me and the entire community of Naledi Village and its leaders and to trustees of the Earthrise Trust.

We have worked tirelessly to build racial unity in this country. In fact, alongside the Nelson Mandela Foundation, we have a national agreement with AgriSA representing nearly all commercial white farmers to work with them and farmworkers communities to build local partnerships to find solutions to land reform, addressing hunger and promoting community farming. The Chair of the Naledi Village has participated and been key in these discussions. It is insulting and dangerous that one of the commentators, Tony van Der Veen seeks to make any link.

Lastly, the Earthrise Trust has done an independent hydrological survey of water on the entire farm. The borehole Tony mentions has declined in its production to a point where it is unviable. He should in future check his facts.

Finally, this is the last time I will engage this petty group of people who believe their contribution to the old ‘Rustlers Farm’ was monumental and earth-shattering. They can continue to live in the world of grand delusions. We work with many outstanding people who have been here in the past and knew Frik intimately. There are great human beings who participate in work on the farm and Valley without asking for recognition or publicity.

And I am grateful because at the end of the day we are judged by our actions, not our words or our promises.

Today Naledi Village has its own land. It has built itself a crèche and renovated the community school. It grows its food and has created with Earthrise Trust support many village enterprises it owns from brick-making to crafts to running an eco-lodge, a plant nursery and many others. There are no workers on the farm. They own their livelihoods and enterprises.

It would be good for these commentators to show what they have done concretely in the past that stands today to support the community.

* The neighbouring farmer who cut off the water was given until yesterday to respond with his perspective but did not do so, saving that he would prefer a legal challenge.