14 October 2020
PRETORIA – President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the death of Dr Vuyo Mahlati, president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) and the former chair of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, as massive blow to South Africa’s agricultural sector.
“This is a great blow to the agricultural fraternity and to the country as a whole; more so at a time when much of our work around land reform is coming to fruition,” said Ramaphosa.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, colleagues and friends at this difficult time, and the entire country mourns her loss.”
Dr Mahlati, aged 55, passed away on Tuesday.
She was a social entrepreneur, women’s rights activist and policy specialist who served as a member of the inaugural National Planning Commission.
Dr Mahlati also served as Deputy Chairperson of the Panel of Experts tasked with developing an Integrated Urban Development Framework for the country. She held a number of corporate roles and directorships.
“South Africa’s land reform process is gaining momentum, guided by the recommendations of the Presidential Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture that was ably led by Dr Mahlati,” said Ramaphosa.
“With the release of the revised Land Expropriation Bill and the state land release programme, we are demonstrating our seriousness about using agriculture and farming as catalysts for economic inclusion.”
As chairperson of the advisory panel and through her leadership in AFASA, Dr. Mahlati was vocal about the need for black farmers and rural women to be brought into the mainstream of the sector.
She worked closely with smallholder farmers and businesses, and believed it was critical that rural entrepreneurs be included in value chains to enable them to access international markets.
Dr Mahlati also served two consecutive terms as president of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) South Africa.
“She will be remembered for her passion for empowering women, and having established the country’s first commercial cashmere production facility in the Eastern Cape, she had both in-depth knowledge and experience of the challenges women farmers face,” President Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) had a great responsibility to take forward Dr Mahlati’s work.
“She has left behind a formidable legacy, and it would no doubt have been her wish that AFASA remains a strident and activist voice for the transformation of the sector, and a vital contributor to the land reform process,” he said.