the Black Association of Wine and Spirits Producers (BAWSI), is threatening to make the local wine industry “the pariah of the world market again”, following the withdrawal of VinPro, Wine Cellars South Africa (WCSA) and the African Liquor Brandowners’ (Salba) as members and directors of the SA Wine Industry Council.
In a strongly worded press release, BAWSI president Nosey Pieterse threatened wine producers that nobody would “touch them with a barge pole, once we have gone on the offensive”. He warned that they had already started with a process of mobilisation. Exodus of producers n April, wine producers withdrew en masse from the Wine Industry Council, which was established in June 2006 as an industry representative body aimed at making the local wine industry a “globally competitive, profitable, accessible and equitable” one. The council is set to lose cash contributions to the value of R2 million per annum with the departure of the three organisations. Vinpro, WCSA and Salba expressed their dissatisfaction with the council’s inability to function as a mouthpiece engaging with government on behalf of the industry, as well as its failure to provide a forum for stakeholder communication. The organisations also commented that they had evaluated “significant events affecting the operations of the council and its advisory forum”.
These included the sudden resignation of the chairperson, Professor Kader Asmal, which coincided with the expiry of some employment contracts, including that of CEO Dr Johan van Rooyen at the end of May. H owever, the organisations feel the other mandate of the council – transformation – is now on track. According to a joint press release issued in April, “The Wine Charter has now been finalised and acknowledged by government as a sub-charter of the Agri-BEE and there’s no further need for the coordinating role of the council in this regard. wine industry is the first and, to date, the only agricultural sector in the country that has visibly illustrated its commitment to transformation through finalising the wine charter”. BAWSI on the war path BAWSI, however, has a different stance. Pieterse said the reasons the organisations gave for their withdrawal are merely a “smokescreen”. He said they withdrew because of BAWSI’s class action against the industry, which included anti-eviction campaigns and lodging a complaint with the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) regarding “misappropriation of levies”. But Pieterse agreed with the producers’ organisations that the council has been unable to fulfil its role as the voice of the industry. “We agree with them that the minister of agriculture is ignoring the Wine
Together, we can work out a strategy to force her to take the council seriously,” he said. Pieterse is adamant BAWSI didn’t go to the NAMC without the council’s knowledge. “When we had a difference of interpretation with regard to the allocation of levies, they told us to go to the NAMC,” he said, “However, they’re now unhappy with the resolution.” “It’s clear that they are resigning because of our programme of action. We won’t submit to intimidation and blackmail. We shall continue to defend the poorest of the poor.” While Pieterse heads an organisation suspected of mismanaging the hundreds of thousands of rands it received from the Wine Industry Trust, and has been accused of trying to enrich himself at the expense of those he’s supposedly representing, he is adamant he’s going to discredit white business. “White business has benefited greatly from the council,” he said. “Our presence made them representative; we gave them the legitimacy. Because of us, they became politically, socially and economically acceptable. As BAWSI and the Rural Development Network we have the capacity to undo that. We regard this intimidation strategy as a declaration of war.” – Sonja Burger