Open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa


By Clemens Senekal

In 51 BC, the Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero De re Publica, about what makes a true statesman, published. Cicero wrote that a good statesman virtue (virtue), justice (righteousness) and wisdom must have. He should too dignity have (dignity) and moderation, and be noble and magnanimous.

One would hope to use the same virtues to describe the president of a country. That he will be a statesman who sees things realistically – as they really are – as defined by the author of Politics Among Nations, Hans J Morgenthau. According to him, a statesman examines how a policy will affect an entire nation and acts accordingly.

Before February 2018, as young South African farmers, we hoped that our new president, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, would be a statesman who would take our country forward and upwards. A strong man who would put South Africa and all its citizens before politics. We hoped so.

But as you settled into your role, it became clear that you, Mr. Ramaphosa, is not a statesman, but simply a politician – someone who will say or do anything to get elected or gain power.

It’s hard to stay hopeful as a young farmer when the party that “leads” my country tells everyone that I stole my land. The land I work on from sunrise to sunset (and often before and after) to provide food for all South African citizens.

It is challenging to stay positive when the infrastructure we depend on to deliver agricultural products is collapsing due to lack of maintenance. It is collapsing because the people who “lead” our country fill their pockets with our tax money.

It is not easy to farm in modern times when we cannot rely on our power supplier but have to spend money on alternative energy to continue.

It is frustrating when we hear that we have to hand over up to 75% of the ownership of our farms to someone else just to get a water licence.

Keeping our families safe when our farms are attacked for being farmers is exhausting.

It is heartbreaking when our country only provides financial support to subsistence farmers during national disasters or times of emergency that threaten the food supply.

You can’t help but consider moving to another place when the policy of the country in which you were born and which you love says that it can expropriate all your assets without compensation. How else will we be able to give our children a future?

But we stay, and we continue. And we make plans.

And then we hear you telling our peers, the youth, that they should become militants. To be revolutionary. Because “the ANC may eventually lose the ability to grow and renew itself”, your failing party needs a “militant youth movement” to save it from its own demise.

How can you be the leader of a country and encourage one group to act violently against the other just so you can win an election? You say and do literally anything to get elected or gain power. You are nothing but a politician.

Mr. President, we invite you to explain why you hate us and teach young people to do the same. Explain how you think we should respond when you make these statements. Explain how you think we can continue when you split us up.

I want to repeat and define the virtues of a statesman for you.

  • Virtue (virtue): behavior that demonstrates high moral standards
  • Justice: fair behavior or treatment
  • Wisdom: experience, knowledge and good judgment
  • Dignity: to deserve respect
  • Temperance: to exercise self-control
  • Generosity: kind and generous
  • Magnanimity: forgiveness, especially towards a rival or less powerful person

It would be a good idea to look at these virtues and try to be more than just a politician before you answer our questions.

Friendly greeting,

Clemens Senekal

Chairman: TLU SA Young Farmer Committee