Stellenbosch strikes me as one of those places that got put on the table by the National Party during the negotiated settlement pre-1994, something the ANC conceded in exchange for democracy. In fact, there’s a joke with more than a single grain of truth that the design of apartheid was conceived in one of the student residences of Stellenbosch University, where the young “architects” lived together. The divided socioeconomic structure of Stellenbosch is a living testimony to the long-term objective of apartheid.

In Stellenbosch, Coloured farm workers’ lives still matter little to the White landowners, as this community is in a wretched state of violence and drug abuse. Yet, driven by addiction and poverty they provide a constant supply of cheap labour. African people matter even less but have the benefit of relative sobriety and as a result can be trained faster and are easier to manage as labourers. The problem with Africans however is that they don’t all speak Afrikaans, and some don’t speak English either because they come from the Eastern Cape. This is considered a threat to Afrikaans hegemony in Stellenbosch because African communities in the area are growing rapidly as those arriving from the Eastern Cape, looking for work, also find a relatively functional public health service. Through democratic processes, the new threat of the Swart Gevaar is in being out-voted in your homebase. As for Indians, we may as well not exist. I know this because I spent 6 months leading an almost invisible life in that town.

As one enters the town off Baden Powell Drive on the N2 out of Cape Town, there’s an observable difference between White-owned and White-frequented establishments compared to those with Coloured and African customers. The reason I separate these two groups is because Coloureds don’t identify themselves as Black or as part of the Black majority and it’s evident in their interactions with African people. This is the legacy of apartheid and a failure of the new government to create a lasting unity. It’s similar to Indians in Durban who don’t identify themselves as Black either.

In Stellenbosch, as in the rest of the Western Cape, the ongoing perception of difference based on race or ethnicity reproduces separate development and segregation. Expensive restaurants and shops are located on the side of the town where the roads are lined with trees, and parks are filled with fit, young White university students, while tourists roam freely. And on the outskirts of the town, there are shops catering to the needs of workers. Every day thousands of African and Coloured people enter Stellenbosch in taxis, buses, trains and open top bakkies. They come in for work and then exit back to their homes at the end of the day. For those who have no place to go, there is a range of decent shelter in the centre of town which is safe, clean, well lit and has a number of solid buildings with dark corners. But for the most part, security guards won’t allow the unsightly presence of homeless people get in the way of the town’s cafe culture.

Tourists in Stellenbosch get to experience the world famous wine and complementary artisanal food that goes with it, while conveniently avoiding the dark reality of the labourers that toil to construct and maintain this picturesque fantasy. Again, I speak from personal experience because for 6 months I did just that. Except that I was confronted with the horrifying reality of the working class and the poor every day that I worked at Stellenbosch district hospital. It’s not that different from any other public hospital in South Africa: tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease and trauma, lots and lots of trauma.

On weekends and pay days, the incidence of violence and injuries peaks. Since Stellenbosch still bears the brunt of the legacy of the “dop” system, alcohol abuse amongst farm workers is endemic and every alternate weekend (which correlates with pay days) communities descend into a stupor of alcohol-induced self annihilation. Their self-destructive behaviour is likely a product of systematic dispossession, marginalisation and social isolation but is now driven by addiction. At a certain point in the collective stupor, they turn on each other and on nights like this, the emergency centre is a blood bath. Paramedics drive back and forth between locations picking up bleeding casualties and dropping them at the hospital to have their wounds sutured and cleaned.

This is the reality for Coloured and African communities of Stellenbosch; violence, alcoholism and drug abuse is part of life and being passed on from generation to generation with no end in sight. As for the farm and business owners, they don’t give a shit. As long as their separate lives are untouched by the brutality of the natives, they can enjoy the paradise of the Cape Winelands. Should something unforeseen spill over and disturb an owner’s manicured existence, workers are swiftly reminded that there is no place for anything other than servitude and respect for the boer and his business. For example, I’ll never forget the story from a sober young woman who was reprimanded by her employers after she was stabbed by her psychotic boyfriend in the reception area of a Franschhoek guesthouse where she worked.

In my previous job, I witnessed the inhumane living conditions that migrant farm workers on Limpopo farms bordering Zimbabwe experienced. And although they too were at the bottom of the food chain as a result of unfair labour practices and frank violations of human rights that persist in the agricultral sector, there was hope. There was a sense of motivation and a feeling that farm work was just a nasty yet necessary part of the journey on route to a better life. This doesn’t exist in the Cape Winelands as the poor and working class communities, trapped in a cycle of violence, are effectively at war with themselves, while the white farmers continue to reap the profits of their labour.

For me, the most horrifying part is the indifference towards it from the privileged White folk of Stellenbosch. How is it that in this university town, with an artist’s tribute to Nelson Mandela in the centre, there is no visibly active civil society speaking out against the unjust state of affairs, no one questioning the ongoing exploitation of farm workers or the lack of dedicated social programmes to alleviate the suffering and break the cycle of violence? What is the excuse now that apartheid is over and the “dop” system is illegal? Is it a case of “out of sight, out of mind”? Because it does go easily unnoticed when you spend your time between the university and wine tasting. The white people of Stellenbosch, clearly those with the means to affect change, don’t identify with the problem, don’t take any active responsibility towards it and hence are unable to condemn themselves for their part in it. Their attitude is likely an extreme version of what is generally true of the majority of white South Africans who could care less about what their privilege is built on. Perhaps if they “were to condemn themselves, they would have to inflict punishment on themselves”. And so the effect of the theft of self-determination that took place decades ago, continues unabated on its own momentum. But in the end it is highly unlikely that they will take the initiative in any sort of transformative project in Stellenbosch.

If boycotting Stellenbosch wine is a little too extreme, then try this: next time you’re admiring the legs of one the Cape Winelands’ finest exports, take a moment to reflect on the blood, sweat and tears, the violence, abuse and exploitation of women, men, families and communities that go into making that wine. As with the farm workers strike of January 2013, it’s obvious that this situation is ripe for revolution. Call me romantic, but soon the day will come when the anger and frustration of workers is no longer haphazardly hurled at each other, but organised and directed at their oppressors.

* This piece is published here with the kind permission of Amandla Magazine. The new issue is now available.

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Indira Govender

Indira Govender is a doctor and activist working in public health.

54 thoughts on “What they don’t tell you in the brochure about Stellenbosch

  1. Two important books linked to this topic: S Levine 2013: Bitter Harvest. HSRC Press – a study of child labour in the Breede River Valley; and C. S. van der Waal (ed) 2013. Winelands, Work and Wealth (UKZN Press).

  2. C.S. van der Waal is an Anthropologist at Stellenbosch University there is also the Women on Farms NGO – that there is no visible civil society that tackles these issues is simply not true but maybe the author prefers to live in her romantic fantasies. Not one word on the ESTA law – this is just bad research.

  3. wow. whinging, unsubstantiated self-righteous bullshit of the highest order. Stellenbosch and its inequality is nothing special against the bigger backdrop of the socio-economic state of the entire country. everywhere has this same problem, and you’re pissing in the wind thinking the average 20-something student anywhere in the country would rally against systemic inequality, wrong or right as that may be. sounds like you’ve got a personal vendetta. 6 months and you spent time perusing the cafes as well? that’s mighty hypocritical of you.

    point is, this entire piece is pointless and a clear potshot at Stellenbosch, a favourite dumping ground for all columnists like this. nobody’s reading this with shocked expressions. go look up on some facts about the community and transformation at the University before you get up on your high horse. you’ve added NOTHING to the discourse surrounding the place, merely wasted column inches with vainglorious expectations of a pat on the back from your colleagues for being appropriately and sufficiently outraged.

  4. I find the term “african” when referring to black people extremely problematic.

  5. Wow, Karl. That’s a lotta anger you’ve got there. Shame you couldn’t display an ounce of that same righteous indignation for the conditions endured by the labourers of the Cape Winelands. The writer said she saw the things she described working as a doctor and you call her claims unsubstantiated? And why is writing about the cold hard facts of oppression “whinging”? You are clearly from Stellenbosch and probably have some vested interest in keeping up appearances, but, I’m sorry to break it to you: the cat was out the bag a long time ago. If only you could apply even some of that rage into changing things on the ground, maybe we could get somewhere. Thank you Indira for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. This was a powerful read.

  6. “keeping up appearances” ?

    that’s exactly what I’m trying to say – there’s no secret. she’s not pulled the curtain on some hidden abscess of South African culture. it’s pretty damn obvious and real and predictable what’s happening in Stellenbosch and most other affluent non-urban parts of the country.

    which is exactly why it’s whinging.

    and unsubstantiated means assuming the attitude of a student or a Boer simply because she’s spoken to the complainant/victim.

    please don’t accuse me of not trying to change things on the ground either – that’s also whinging and unsubstantiated. but I guess you don’t understand those terms.

  7. I’m really starting to dislike these articles that are popping up everywhere! Yes there were so many people that were oppressed and so much hurt, abuse, etc in the past. My question to these articles is this, can’t we move on?!

    Can’t we focus on the positives?

    I see more and more couples together who in the past were ‘stoned’ for the idea of ‘mixed-race’ relationships. People, our way of life is changing! My daughter will grow up in a different Cape Town, different South Africa, on a different earth to the one we know.

    Lets focus on making things better for our kids! And stop getting angry over the past! We can’t change it. We can change the future! Damnit, I’m angry now cos of our current government as well!!

  8. I think everyone here should just calm down and join us in our celebration of Freedom Day on the 27th of April. We will be hosting the celebration in Die Braak hoping to bring ALL communities and factions in Stellenbosch together. Just by the way, I am a privileged, white, Afrikaans speaking student at Stellenbosch that is massively engaged on the ground concerning all the matters aforementioned. Is there a problem? Yes… Is enough being done to solve it? No… Do I agree with Karl that this is not only synonymous with Stellenbosch, but also a mere example of the harsh reality in SA? Yes… I have lived in “posh” areas right through South Africa, and I am afraid to say, it is generic problem, but is highlighted against Stellenbosch’s serene and pure backdrop. There can be no justification of what is happening in this country and in socio-economic subsets such as farms, but there are people sweating and bleeding on the ground trying to rectify these injustices, believe me.

  9. Just a thought or two…

    Most residences on Stellenbosch campus are involved in community projects. Some students help by tutoring the children of the poor communities around Stellenbosch (and this will obv include children of farm workers) and others help by donating food and money (example: Metanoia residence donated shoes to these children to the value of R20 000 just the other day). These things are not going unnoticed between university and winetasting… There are students using their own money and time running these projects. You should also check out the SU’s Legal Aid Clinic (they have helped to protect farm workers rights before and will most probably do so again). You should also go read about the university’s Hope program.

    So dear Indira, it is insulting when you just make assumptions and write on blogs that we, the Stellenbosch people, don’t see these things and are not doing anything about it.

    So yes, I agree with you that the way farm workers are treated is inhumane and unjust. I also admit that there is a lot of people who are oblivious to this, but I pretty much disagree with most of your other statements.

    I don’t condone the way in which some farmers treat and pay their workers, but we need to investigate as to why this is happening. Is there no legislation prohibiting this or is the legislation not inforced? So here I have to agree with Karl, this thing is bigger than just Stellenbosch. It happens everywhere. Your article should be titled: What they dont tell you about SA in the brochure.

    But hey, I’m just a “privileged white folk” so what do I know?

  10. So why don’t the people on the ground take to the media and blogs, etc to proclaim all the good that they are doing? Why is it we keep switching on the news and all there is is bad news?! I’m glad that you’re doing something on the ground Cobus. But be boisterous about it. Let everyone know! Its time that people who do good raise their voices!!

  11. Although there are definitely exceptions, and the author is dealing with the topic in a totally superficial manner, there is more than a grain of truth to this – at least from the university perspective. I studied there less than 5 years ago and racism was pretty much entrenched in all aspects of that experience. The ‘koshuis’ culture, which is promoted for the most part as a wholesome/respectable/vital aspect of university life ( and drenched in bullshit Christian pseudo-values), remains a throbbing red lifeline of the oldboys/apartheid/wynboer-mafia/Naspers/rugby business network. Non-white students are frequently referred to as ‘quotas’. A significant percentage of economic stability and growth in Stellenbosch is based on the university/town’s appeal as the last safe place to send white, Afrikaans students. Hell, that’s why my parents sent me there and to this day I’m freaked out whenever I pass through there. That being said I also know more than a fair share of intelligent, compassionate and fair landowners who treat their staff with respect, pay decent wages, and actively engage in supporting the education of their children (including paying for university in some cases).
    So it’s not Oranja, but that should hardly be our benchmark in 2014, especially considering its a goddamn university town.

  12. R20,000 worth of Jimmy Choo’s is not a whole lotta shoes ;) I kid, but seriously you think the deep historic, economic and social apartheid that is Stellenbosch is going to be addressed by some school shoes? I’m sure it was a great deal to the recipients, but I’m sure thy would appreciate true social and economic inclusion a whole lot more. And there is no doubt in my experience that these residencies are massively influential in proliferating racism, or at the very least, apartheid/closed minded mentalities. So it’s not even a net-win in my mind, sorry.

  13. Karl, I am slightly baffled as to why you here. Indira has chosen to write about HER EXPERIENCE in Stellenbosch. She is under no obligation to write about the entire country or to write in a way that makes you feel better about yourself. If you feel inspired to write the article you feel she should have, please do. I hope it includes information about all the great work you are doing to improve the living and working conditions of Stellenbosch’s labourers, because the only whinging here is coming from you.

  14. What will it help to write so many negative thoughts and insult so many people rather than actually do something about the situation? That is, as far as I know, hypocritical.

    I agree with Philip and Karl – this is not a Stellenbosch problem, but a SA problem.

    Also, as someone just mentioned – coloured and white people can also be African.

  15. “…because Coloureds don’t identify themselves as Black or as part of the Black majority and it’s evident in their interactions with African people”…Just one of the gross generalizations so confidently stated as “fact” in this article.

  16. “This is the legacy of apartheid and a failure of the new government to create a lasting unity. It’s similar to Indians in Durban who don’t identify themselves as Black either.”
    Divide and Rule was the Apartheid and Colonial playbook. This is fact. Not a generalisation. The fear of the other is evident in how coloured, indians and africans interact with each other.

  17. well i guess the point is that also Coloured, White and Indian people who hold South African citizenship are Africans, or do you want to engage in Ethnonationalism. Why should i identify myself as Black if i am Indian? She seems to be a little confused and her argument is just plain stupid (sorry).

  18. Katia, you are protesting too much–You know what Indira’s is writing about anti-black racism by coloureds is true.

  19. Sean, that’s not even an argument. Why should I identify myself as black if I am coloured?

  20. “As for Indians, we may as well not exist. I know this because I spent 6 months leading an almost invisible life in that town.”

    Ah shame. Perhaps you should consider moving to KZN where you “Indians” who “control the economy” are lovingly embraced with open arms? Perhaps your obsession with your [racial] “identity politics” is part and parcel of failure of the new government to create a lasting unity.

  21. I can attest to most of what this author says about Stellenbosch, however; the story is not unique to Stellenbosch: inequalities are endemic across the Western Cape.

    There’s a sense of helplessness among the white residents and farmers though. Decades with the ‘dop’ system negate the few community programmes that do exist to uplift poor communities, and whilst these programmes are valuable, I often feel the well-doers are appeasing their own guilt with a once off donation of their time or money to societal good.

    A res donating a some school shoes, a Geography class spending an afternoon waterproofing shacks, a University embarking on a wide-scale ‘social responsibility’ programme isn’t solving much. But, if any of these uplift or bring a weak smile to the face of just one farm worker or Eastern Cape migrant then they should be be allowed to continue.

    If we’re serious about transforming Stellenbosch though, we have to think bigger, we have to implement a country wide resolution to uplift our poor communities and provide and enabling environment for people to flourish themselves. This is one reason why governments exist: to coordinate and manage a nation to prosper as a collective – and the most powerful tool we have at our individual disposal is our vote.

    The responsible thing for people to do is to vote wisely and thoughtfully.

  22. I have worked for a major South African charity for over two years and we send out press releases regarding our efforts to create sustainable livelihoods in rural communities at least once a month to no avail! The media have no interest in the feel good stories or the massive effort South Africans are putting in to change our society. Each one of our projects consists of over 1000 poor families who are being trained to become successful, independent smallholder farmers and all the media care about are controversial stories which will grab headlines and sell newspapers.

  23. Hi there Jake, do you have links, a url or an online presence with regards to the press releases? I would GLADLY share via Facebook! Its time to make a difference and thanks for what you do!

  24. As a doctor in a provincial hospital you would naturally have an observational bias towards seeing the worst and the saddest side of life in Stellenbosch (or any town for that matter). I admire your work and am grateful for the contribution that you make on behalf of all of us mere taxpayers to serve the poor.
    I just think you did not allow yourself the time to research the rest of this multi-layered town. There are many glaring mistakes. Firstly, the greatest majority of the wine farms are no longer in “boere” hands. They belong to wealthy individuals or corporations, mostly foreign born.
    Secondly, and most importantly, I do not think you or many others understand the term “farm worker”. Many farm workers today are embarrassed by the kind of stereotyping that they are subjected to in articles such as yours. In fact they themselves have recently formed an organisation to counter these pervasive attitudes. In the 1980’s and 1990’s Stellenbosch was the headquarters of the Rural Foundation. This foundation promoted and supported the specialized training and certification of the skills needed on farms. Farm workers are today employed in a wide range of areas ranging from specialist pruners to human resources to all levels of the hospitality industry. Most of them started their lives as farm workers’ children and they are proud of what they do. The new organisation also stresses that farm workers can speak for themselves – they have long been trained in meeting procedures and labour issues. They do not have to go on the rampage to speak to their employers, as the workers in De Doorns did. These were seasonal workers who were actively transported and organised by an organisation of ex-trade unionists who admitted quite openly that they received government funding to encourage the protests. They were eventually quite ignominiously chased off the farms by the workers themselves, who were horrified at the destruction to their own handiwork and livelihood that was being encouraged by this organisation. The protest was against the basic minimum wage – which is set by the government. The government followed this path to discourage payment in kind by farmers – which meant workers shared in the products of the farm (such as wine) or were given food and/or shelter.
    To say that the people of Stellenbosch just couldn’t care less is such a wild statement. There are many people here who just want to drink and be merry for sure. But there are many who care deeply enough to devote their life’s work to making a difference. The people who care are not only people such as farmers’ wives whose passion is the local creche, but also as you would be able to learn from the prestigious “Farm worker of the Year Award” from farm workers themselves who do amazing things to enable their communities to be more able to connect to opportunities and lifestyles that were once out of their reach.
    There is much more to be said. But my time is up.

  25. In reading this article, I am saddened by your experience of Stellenbosch. As someone who lived there for 17 years including all of my schooling and most of my university years, it is still the place I call home and visit often. Many towns/cities in South Africa are structured in the same way that Stellenbosch is due to our history – segregation happened and its ramifications are still present in many areas, that is true. But there are also areas where people of different cultures and race groups happily co-exist. Further, people of the Stellenbosch community are involved in many outreach projects – I myself have volunteered and worked in Cloetesville and extensively in Kayamandi as well in the homeless shelter, as I am sure many other Stellenbosch students and residents have. While I believe that more can always be done, this is not to say that nothing is being done. Further, I worked at a wine farm in Stellenbosch for two years and the farm workers and staff were treated with respect by their employers who paid for the education (incl tertiary) of their children and created opportunities for growth. So, while many wine farmers may exploit their workers, many do not. Yes, Stellenbosch may have its problems, but I don’t think that spending 6 months in one section of it can make you an expert on the diverse community that it is and the incredible work that so many people do. I spent the majority of my life there and still have so much to learn. Instead of complaining about the situation, why not do something about it – that has and always will be my philosophy. I agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion, this is simply mine. From a white, middle-class resident of Stellenbosch.

  26. Dear White people, you are clearly in denial. And your white guilt is evidently a futile sentiment that does not seem to encourage either admitting to the rapacious legacy of your fore bearers or your contemporaries perpetuating a way of doing business that is grotesquely inhuman and manifestly immoral. This can only end badly. And by badly, I mean mostly for you. think Zimbabwe, only much much worse. Perhaps its time to assess the situation prudently and soberly, even if it purely from a place of long-term self-interest and self-preservation…just a thought.

  27. Hi Farrel

    Unfortunately, organisations and individuals working on these problems often face massive financial, skills and structural shortages. Believe me when I say that there is an extreme amount of effort going into trying to establish proper communication channels through which to voice concerns, but these are grossly inefficient and don’t often translate into huge amounts of publicity.

    As mentioned, we are having a Freedom Day celebration at Die Braak, which is in the center of the town and we are hoping to engage all demographics in the surrounds in this event. In addition, we recently organised a Human Rights day march in which community leaders and residences took to the streets of Stellenbosch, with impeccable acumen, and made their presence felt. We hope these types of engagements will create a unique dynamic in the town and foster a more integrated approach to solving issues on grass root levels.

    There is progress and we are hoping to speed things up. There are loads of youth organisations (from varied backgrounds) working in this specific area and are gaining more and more traction.

  28. Themba, chill out! Don’t come with your trolling Zimbabwe rubbish mentality! People are starting to make things move in the right direction! The ones you mention, that are still living in denial, WILL die out. This country does NOT need ANYONE to think along the lines of the rubbish Bob from Zim. Lets NOT drag SA down into the gutters and kill everyone off with MORE suffering. Instead try and reach out a helping hand.

    If not, shut up and get on with your own life and go live in Zimbabwe. Leave us good South Africans to make this a better place for our kids!

  29. I would like to add some good news and initiatives, there are many more :

    Black Owned Brands :
    Education Initiatives on wine farms :
    Empowerment projects :

    Watch some videos (part of WOSA’s democracy series) :

    The inaugural Cape Wine Auction recently raised R7 million for winelands education :

    The Stellenbosch Wine Festival contributed R100 000 in bursaries, supported by mentorship :

  30. What a moan. Can we all have a go. Have you been in the mining hostels recently – those overseen by the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa. Make the W Cape seem like a holiday farm. Oh.. and grow up.

  31. As an English speaking NON-“boer’, my family owns one of the largest privately family-owned wine labels in the country and I would like to raise some pertinent points.

    Firstly anyone who thinks that wineries make huge profits actually need to do their research. we have been in the grip of rising costs, rising diesel prices and a shrinking market for the last 10 years.
    In fact Diesel, Spraying costs and salaries make up almost 80% of our budget, and we have been running a deficit for almost 15 years. If it weren’t for the deep (but not so-deep anymore) back pocket of my patriarch, to cover these losses we would have shut our doors years ago, condemning all our employees to oblivion. Its not like they can just go and find a job elsewhere.

    Our local industry is finding it harder and harder to find purchases in international markets. Most farmers in this country are very well aware of the reality. We are one of the very few countries in the world that do not have government subsidies to assist farmers in times of need- Our esteemed ANC – the protectors of the working class, have turned us into a NET importer of staple goods such as Maize, which has in turn made us hostages of the Global bio-tech industry. The removal of these subsidies and the CIA orchestrated farm killings since 1994, have seen how many thousands of “boere’ farmers leave this country and go northwards into Africa where their farming expertise is actually WANTED, and believe me, the rest of Africa is only to happy to pick up the “rubbish” that our government thinks we didn’t need.

    The Author of this article needs to wake up a little bit. Considering that the wine industry is THE largest employer of seasonal labour in this province, I would be very careful of instigating such destructive principles such as boycotting products and wineries, when our ESTEEMED dept. of labour has recently proposed to made it illegal to employ seasonal workers. My dear Ms Govender our ANC run dept. in it’s wisdom has decided to take the only seasonal employment opportunity AWAY from the poor and desperate WOMEN of our province. During pruning season and harvesting we employ up to 200-300 women on a regular seasonal basis, which I might add is one of the only employment opportunities for many, many women who live in the townships surrounding the immediate Stellenbosch wine-lands area’s. Now because government has dictated that we must employ these woman permanently (bearing in mind that we only employ about 20-30 permanent farm ‘workers’, there is no way that any farmer can possibly have 200 persons permanently on their books, with NOTHING to do for 6 month’s of the year.. we can’t simply employ for the sake of employing.)

    SO the only option now available to many wineries, is to mechanise our pruning and harvesting practises, which means huge capitalisation costs, loans, interest and VAT which goes directly to government, banks etc.. and not to the people. I would suggest Ms. Govender that you might want to do some research into the possible collusion between our Government and the Huge International companies that manufacture these machines, which can only be imported. So instead of paying seasonal wages to those who desperately need it, we are now going to be contributing to some shareholders new yacht in the Caribbean islands somewhere.

    The Cape Wine Industry have purposefully NOT mechanised over the years, because we have recognised our responsibility as employers and driver of social change. So the next you come to the Wine-lands and you start to see 3-4 million Rand automatic harvesters driving around, do not think that it is Reflective of huge profits, rather think about the 200 women per machine, per winery ( and their are about 200 in the immediate Stellenbosch region) that are now unemployed, due to the wisdom and foresight of our National Dept. of Labour. I would invite you to come and witness the sad and soul destroying sight, when this law come into affect, of having to turn away hundreds of desperate and starving women who have now had 3-4 month’s of earning potential taken away. I agree it’s not a lot, but it is something.

    Don’t be naïve, there are many farm owners out there, that are so desperate, they are closing their doors and selling out to international investors and consortiums who are the only one’s who have the capital to purchase in this country due to the weakened rand. In many cases these farms will be turned into housing developments and golf estates, etc. They don’t care about local labour or the history of our country. To the contrary these new proposed labour laws will suite them just fine, as they don’t have to deal with the local unions or any other undesirables. Look at the Employment practises of Wal-Mart and tell me our government had the people’s best interests at heart when they allowed the corporate invasion of SA through the sale of Mass-mart.

    Oh yes and the fact that Mass-mart may now start importing cheap wine from the rest of the world to dump on our local shelves, due to the buying power of their parent company, is another nail in the coffin for our local producers. Ironically even the profits from the deplorable legacy of the DOP system are now going overseas….. So yes, go on glorifying the ANC and how hard it is for them to defeat this ‘Legacy’ after 20 years in power, I never knew that a Legacy had so much power to ham-string our health services, our social services, our military, our police, our treasury, our parliament… and of course… this legacy also spent 200 million rand on a house, which obviously our president was powerless over.

    Yours sincerely

    A White- Wine Estate Heir, who is obviously a racist person because we happen to be an employer.

  32. From the comments above, I’d say that Stellenbosch apologists are divided into 2 camps: those that deny the extent of the problem by discrediting my opinion and those that excuse it as just another example of South Africa’s problems. Yes, the truth hurts… but maybe in time you’ll develop some ability to critically evaluate reality in Stellenbosch, not from your perspective but from someone else’s, perhaps that of a farm worker or whatever you call those people working in the vineyards, living at the bottom of the barrel so to speak. I have no interest in giving you the political education you need to engage with this kind of criticism. The point I’m making, amongst others that you missed, is that even at a superficial glance, your town is a problem. Your individual acts of charity are always welcome and most likely contribute to individual success stories but sadly amount to very little in the face of ongoing structural inequality and racism. Would any of you willingly switch places with the people on the receiving end of your benevolence? Would you live, work and raise your family on a farm? Would you rely on the charity of the baas for your survival? Would you happily aspire to be “Farm Worker of the Year”? I didn’t think so.
    The fact is that if you really cared about uplifting or transforming the lives of labourers in Stellenbosch, or at least shifting the dynamics, you’d start by radically changing the way you do business on every level in that town. But I doubt that will happen voluntarily because it means acknowledging that you have more and that you need to give back to those who are dispossessed. It also means taking into account the unsustainable politics of capitalism. Action follows understanding and awareness, and in that sense change is likely to be forced upon you.
    Oh, and just because Stellenbosch happens to be replica of every other privileged white town in South Africa, doesn’t mean anyone should refrain from talking about it.

  33. firstly, i am not an apologist – i just stated that your article is a sign of extremely bad research. i don’t want to apologize anything – things are the way they are – but you completely fail to look at them without you’re post-colonial pseudo marxist glasses. that is your problem – if you are happy with your self righteous nonsense – well then be it that way.

    but please stop patronising others, that’s what they had in stellenbosch for 350 years – it’s enough now.

  34. Hi Themba, my white forbears arrived here as migrants, fleeing from terrible wars in the countries in which they were living. They had absolutely nothing when they arrived and were not even allowed to speak their own language. They were given a few crude implements and started doing the only thing that they knew – planting vines. They often went through hell like when the vines all got phyloxera and died. They went hungry and had to turn their clothes inside out to make them last longer. It has been a history of ups (like when there was war in Europe and the English could not buy French wine) and very bad downs.

    Today very few people can still make a living out of wine farming – it has just become too expensive to plant, to water and to fight the plagues. The farms are now owned by people who have made a lot of money in other places and come here to have the status of owning a wine farm. They spend huge amounts of money on beautifying the farms, and on building guest accommodation, restaurants and massive factory-like cellars. These farms are very big employers of rural people who have jobs like wine-making, presenting wine-tastings, and working in the hospitality trade that flourishes on the farms. The problem is still the jobs that have to be done in the heat of the sun during the harvest. As many local farm workers upgrade to softer jobs, this job often has to be done by seasonal workers. In every country this is a problem – in France, where I visited, people volunteer without payment to help with the harvest, in the USA it is often done by migrant Mexican workers.

    All in all I do not feel guilty about my forefathers – I am quite proud, actually, when i see the beautiful vineyards around the town and know that these were first planted by the sweat of their brows. Some in the past would have maybe been “rapacious” when they had the chance, and way back some would have been slave owners. Of that I am not proud. But there are many people in the world who need to feel guilty about that legacy, including the Africans who caught other Africans to sell them, and some African tribes who used the San people as slaves. It was an earlier and more cruel time. My farming forefathers obviously had to live through the time of apartheid. But they were not separated as city folk were and their workers were their closest neighbours, the playmates of their children – my mother and her friend kept in touch till death did them part. My grandmother told me that the farms were pretty run down compared to how they look today. Neither farmer not workers had luxuries of comfort or modern conveniences.
    Apartheid, in my view, was an inhuman policy and needed to fail. People are so inclined to not want a different kind of person in their environs – look at Rwanda. So we have to be ever careful.

    It would be very sad indeed if your threats to the farms here were to materialize – thousands and thousands of people have excellent jobs on farms, most of the farms are open to the public and anyone is free to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, even if it is just for a glass of wine or a coffee, or just to roam around in their gardens. Young men, such as the son of my domestic worker, have had opportunities to travel to foreign countries to market wines. His ability in marketing was recognized and nurtured on the farm where he works. He is well paid and leads a comfortable middle class life.

    Themba – many stereotypes were created during the apartheid era: farm workers were the stereotypes number one and they are sick and tired of it. Maybe I have a stereotype of you that is not correct – but I am very sad that you think so terribly in terms of black and white when it comes to employers in this country. White people used to be 20% of this country. Now they are only 9%. Soon, according to demographic graphs, they will be an ever diminishing fraction. Have you also checked what thousands of black employers are doing in their shops, mines, factories and shebeens? The country is yours. Run it well, run it with compassion. As Indira so rightly says, the poor are in desperate need of people who can create opportunities, and of people who care, of people who will include them into the mainstream of services and jobs. (That takes more effort than ranting and raving and going on the rampage.) Zimbabweans could come here when Mugabe’s plans went belly up. Quieten the rage in your head now, think carefully of your future in a climate that is getting hotter and hotter, cos you, and me, will have nowhere to go when the harvests run dry. Pity those desperate migrants who swarm across the Mediterranean in death trap boats ……

  35. ah Joe, give the girl a break. how will she prove to her contemporaries that she’s more actively engaged with the plight of the working class if she doesn’t shrilly proclaim it every opportunity she gets?

  36. Indira your anger at conditions is clearly heart-felt, but in the comments immediately above yours, several harsh realities were pointed out that you failed utterly to address. As a very well-known (if not utterly bright) American president once observed, “a litany of complaints is not an action plan”. It is unfortunate if the local employers with the capital and the land cannot do more to help locals, but you seem to rail against the injustices you see without offering any solutions.

  37. Terrible article. Written to try attract attention to itself and not to its content. Empty research and farfetched allegations. The ‘oppressors’, have you seen the state of the rest of the country and made any comparison? What ever Stellenbosch has done to you, try get over it in a different way rather than voicing an over exaggerated ‘opinion’ like this.

  38. I am so terribly thankful I am not a patient of this doctor. If this is an example of the quality of her diagnostic skills, then I will forever have to weep for her poor patients.

  39. besides all this “false conciousness” nonsense – there is the stats sa homepage with a direct link to stellenbosch municipality – and there is a simply dynamic i want to ask indira something about. in 2001 there were 118 thousand people living in stellenbosch and in 2011 – 155 thousand people were living in stellenbosch if it is such a racist hellhole as you imply, why do you think black people move there? and why do you think the unemployment rate decreased?

  40. Indira most of these comments are proof that you can not change people. So many of you are drowning in your privilege and you refuse to see anyone elses point of view. Always coming from a standpoint of righteousness. According to some of you, your concerns are the only valid concerns and everyone elses concerns are just whiny and entitled.

  41. Sarah and Indira – Thank you for speaking out – I call the mechanism behind these kind of comments “The psychology of the oppressor” – greedy, needy and selfish humans have to put down those who challenge their right to privilege. They can never recognise that their privilege is only possible with great cost to other people’s happiness. Its disgusting and this country is full of them. When I moved back here after 11 years in the UK (things are not much better there) I was horrified to find that so little has changed. Keep spreading the message!

  42. Move on? Were you paying attention to the part she wrote about FAS? Things are changing sure, does that mean we should be apathetic to things that are still wrong?

  43. well i have physical problems being your oppressor – maybe you just start looking at reality instead of your morally righteous fantasy world.

    The tourists love it in Stellenbosch and they create jobs – what do you create?

  44. Stellenbosch has many problems as you have identified, but it is also one of the areas with the greatest opportunity for change. The dominance of low skills entry industries such as tourism and agriculture, the existence of the university, the fact that there IS a hospital are all good things for addressing social problems.

    My sister in law is from a small township in the Eastern Cape and is studying social work at Stellenbosch university. She remarked on the prevalence of social facilities and development work in Khayamandi and how much better the township was than her home town, where there is nothing. The alliance between Stellenbosch municipality and the Slum Dwellers Alliance has resulted in some of the best informal settlement upgrades the country has seen. I encourage you to look at the good work that is being done and popularise it. maybe apathetic citizens will be encouraged by the progress enough to get involved.

    I would thus propose that despite the problems, Stellenbosch is a better place to be poor than many other places in the country, (not saying much I know) why else would so many people be moving there?

    I sympathise with your frustrations, but its wrong to ignore the substantial efforts of the local citizens, the state and ngo sectors to improve things. There is no quick fix and within our current economic path Stellenbosch is one of the areas making substantial gains in the social justice project.

    Of course more can be done and the firm blinkers that many privileged people put on are a hindrance to the greater success of social and economic development.

    I think it would be great to have a clear indication of which farms are empowerment engines for workers and which are treating their workers badly so that we can favour those farms and convince those farms with poor labour practice that its good business to treat labourers well. This would also be a simple way to get privileged people involved in social transformation. I know the Wine Industry Ethical Trade initiative was attempting this a few years ago, but I’m not sure how successful this was.

    An interesting participatory governance initiative, called the Participatory Appraisal of Competetive Advantage, is taking place in the area in May I believe. It looks at how to develop the economy and society in a sustainable way building on the competetive advantage of the area.

    I’d encourage those reading the comments to get involved, Indira perhaps you can come and share your concerns, its important that they stay on the table.

  45. Oh but Indira hinted at a solution: “Action follows understanding and awareness, and in that sense change is likely to be forced upon you.”
    We all realize what that means. What good are wineyards when the population is starving?
    Tear it all down, evict the evil land owners and give the land to the people. That should improve the nutritional state of affairs?

  46. Lilly you are so right and giving so much more facts than the writer itself….how can an educated person in a right mind incite to no further business in that area….how will that solve the problems? Oh by having everyone poor ! Does she think she is so right by even answering again saying there are the apologists , she wants warriors. ..she wants rebilion she wants no farms….I can see this coming as well if a doctor is inciting what should one expect from the mass of less educated….The way she doesn’t think about a class of people at all and calling for action to impoverish them I wanted to give her another scenario but no…she can figure out for herself . Indira you got this from a foreigner which was bulshited to believe you are the honorable COUNTRY of a noble price winner forPEACE.

  47. You have been here for 6 months? I have been here for 24 years and I am colored. You are exaggerating and putting all colored and blacks in one box. Yes there are problems, but please do not make our town seem like a nightmare, this happens all over.

  48. I’m afraid you have missed the boat completely. Bad research and understanding of past and present practices in the winelands. The farms in the winelands provide better living conditions, healthcare benefits and monetary benefits when compared to farms anywhere in South Africa. No doubt things aren’t where they should be, but attacking white farmers and labeling them as people who don’t care is just ridiculous. You point out that Stellenbosch is divided socioeconomicly; which is just like every other town\city in the world. Purely a one sided view.

  49. Just get another topic. This “transformation is not happening” bullshit could really just blow over. Get angry at the leaders that aren’t creating jobs (the one’s that said they will), instead of trying to shift the blame to the ones that actually do have jobs and are trying to accommodate as many “Transformative” job seekers as possible. Get over yourself, your blog post is not going to change Stellenbosch, rather focus on getting rural places to empower themselves than, trying to breakdown established communities.

  50. Hi, I grew up on a farm on Stellenbosch. I got the opportunity to finish school and even study at the University. In saying that I had to work on weekends (at the local Pick n Pay) to pay both my high school and University fees. I still get tears in my eyes when I think back to the late 90’s how the “Boer” raped my mother infront of me, not sure if its still happening. I agree with the article though, people like my just turn a blind eye for the happenings and need to help the rest get out of that mess. Stellenbosch is still far behind the rest of the country and need to change ASAP. Also, i voted EFF.


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