Why African finance ministers go farming.

By  Zinathi Gquma

What is it about finance ministers and farming? It seems that when they are not racking their brains over the national budget they can find happiness down on the farm, amid the cows, crops and clucking of chickens in the barnyard.

That appears to be the case for South Africa’s current and previous finance ministers. Tito Mboweni, the current finance minister is never happier than when he is on his farm in Limpopo in the north of South Africa. Mboweni puts videos of chickens and plants on his Twitter feed.  

SA Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers his emergency budget
#SpecialBudget2020: Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers emergency budget (full speech)

His predecessor, Nhlanlha Nene, who stepped down from office at the end of 2018, owns a 22- hectare farm in KwaZulu Natal. lt runs in his blood, Nene tells CNBC Africa in an exclusive interview, dressed more for the field than finance . Behind Nene, is a painting that proves his passion; a picture of Ringo, one of his prized bulls – a gift from a neighbour.

“Even when I was in office I would always retreat back to the farm, to gain some sanity…I love animals and I love nature, it is really therapeutic…nature gives you a sense of clarity,” he says.

“I grew up in a rural area, where my parents were subsistence farmers.”

Marrying his passion for finance and his joy of farming, Nene says that agriculture should be used by South Africans as a tool to lift individuals and communities out of poverty.

“COVID 19? This is a wake- up call that precious metals are no longer important, but agricultural products mean less imports, food security, employment and self- sustenance .We could lift ourselves out of poverty we will always be able to lift ourselves out of poverty and a lot of jobs could be created if we were to re-introduce that way of life (farming) to our people,” says Nene.

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