Charles G. Erasmus. CEO des South African Wirte Industry Trust
South Africa and Austria are both famous for their excellent wines. Wine and viticulture developed very differently in South Africa over the centuries. The South African wine industry can in many ways be seen as a microcosm of our nation and its tumultuous history. It is a story of exploitation and survival; pioneering and excellence; and also of hope. And it represents the painful ironies and Schizophrenie joys that have shaped us as a society.
The first domestic vines were planted in the Cape shortly after being colonized by the Dutch settlers in 1652. Despite a shaky start, the potential of South Africa as a credible wine producing country was established by the French Huguenots and other European settlers. So the industry grew to one in which thousands of hectares of picturesque vineyards were established throughout the Western and Northern Cape. To the producers, their wine brought untold wealth to certain sectors of the Community. The excellence of South African wines was recognized world-wide, making it one of the most important wine nations in the so-called New World.
There is, however, another side to this story of seeming success. Since its advent, the wine industry was built on the sweat and toil of the voiceless Community of black workers who worked the land, built the cellars and laboured in the wineries. In the 17th century this labour came in the form of slaves in the service of the Dutch colonists. When slavery was eventually abolished, not much changed. Hundreds of thousands of black people and their families continued to work the vineyards as subservient tenants.
Whilst South Africa's wine industry went from strength-to-strength, the contribution of those doing the manual labour for minimum wages and living on the iarms in mostly atrocious conditions remained unrecognized. In fact, under the Apartheid regime the wine industry took special care to keep the plight of its workers out of the public and international eye. Besides their inhumane living conditions and the denial of a voice through which to address their grievances, farm workers were subjected to the notorious "dop" (tot) System where they and their families were paid with alcohol. The destructive health effects and social denigration of this system - which has since been banned - can still be seen today.
When South Africa's democratic dawn broke in 1994, the inequalities within the wine industry were also addressed. At last workers found themselves able to address their grievances and general living conditions through the new democratic Channels.
Unfortunately it soon became apparent that three centuries of exploitation cannot be erased overnight. The complex issue of economic dependence, the scars of history and the economic sustainability of the wine industry form a formidable team of adversaries, which is being addressed today through the Cooperation of farm worker bodies, trade unions, civil society organizations and the wine industry.
Whilst black economic empowerment (BEE) is non-negotiable, it can only succeed within the context of an economically viable and successful wine industry. Empowerment proceeds from the imperatives of South Africa's democratic Constitution and of the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act (2003). The Act defines BEE as an integrated and coherent socio-economic process that contributes directly to the economic transformation of South Africa and brings about significant increases in the number of black people that manage, own, control and participate in the country's economy. However, BEE does not stand on its own but forms part of four Strategie goals in the South African Wine Industry Strategy Plan, alongside competitiveness, sustainable use of natural resources and the promotion of socially responsible alcohol use.
Much has changed within the South African wine industry over the past two decades. Unfortunately, a lot has also remained the same. The painful history and the current challenges that lie on the road to a representative South African wine industry make for a complex, yet fascinatingly challenging subject. Thankfully, all the wine industry stakeholders adopted a vision contained in its wine charter to achieve a representative, united and prosperous wine industry.
During 2005 a group of 20 researchers from the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna visited the Winelands of South Africa and condueted very interesting field research on the transformation of the South African wine industry after 1994. The scholars were convinced that their research will help to promote the economic relationship between South Africa and the European Union, especially Austria.
It is therefore a great honour to see this collection of essays from international scholars showing an interest in our industry and the plight of the people who depend on it.
For this I thank the contributors and readers of this work, I hope the insights given in these pages will help in understanding an industry that is irrevocably connected to the hope and aspirations of all South Africa's peoples.
CEO: South African Wine Industry Trust