WIETA on the brink

Neil Pendock November 20, 2012 4

The Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association is on the brink of imploding. Sarah Claasen, a farm worker and president of the Sikhula Sonke Farm Workers Trade Union, which has board representation on WIETA, calls for a mobilisation of farm workers “for our joint farm worker protest action planned for 4 December.”

She also “calls on the police and farmers to stop intimidating and victimizing our farm workers, and also calls on the police and government to release all our farm workers who has been arrested during the farm worker protest across the Western Cape during the past two weeks. We call on all our members to organise on farm and town levels and on our friends and stakeholders to assist in any form necessary. Aluta Continua!!”

Henk Bruwer, executive chairman of Wine Cellars SA, told his members today that you can’t run with the hares and hunt with the hounds and many producers see WIETA as part of the problem, not the solution.

How many of them will seek WIETA accreditation for their products after Sarah’s heartfelt Aluta Continua!! cry? After WIETA board members stand accused of fomenting the unrest? After WIETA accredited farms were destroyed and even empowerment farms damaged? In fact it seems that farms with the most progressive labour practices and that paid the highest wages were singled out by protesters.

It looks likely the WIETA board will split between farmers and labour and in the process, the baby will be thrown out with the bath water. Producers who paid through the nose for WIETA accreditation will be wishing they’d signed up for Fairtrade instead and what WOSA got for the R1.5 million they gifted WIETA this year, is something for further debate. The diversion of marketing moolah to so political an agenda is something for the WOSA board to justify.


  1. Wonkie November 21, 2012 at 9:48 am -

    Perhaps WIETA should take some notes about how Fair Trade policy was implemented in many South American countries with respect to coffee production. Anyway, given the current labour circumstances in South Africa I believe no amount of prior collaboration would have prevented the present situation with the farm workers – it’s unfortunately now less about equity and more about mob mentality following the Lonmin saga. It’s a real pity what’s happened to the empowerment farms in particular.

  2. CS November 21, 2012 at 10:00 am -

    Dear Neil, I think Wieta and fairtrade’s main purpose are to placate the foreign buyers. It does not address the root of the problem, which is ownership. There will always be animosity because the wine industry is still seen as very “white”industry. Just look at the WOSA management. Management is still Top Heavy with white women. In a province were the majority are coloured women, how does WOSA still manage to have no coloured women in management????

  3. Pinto November 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm -

    I’d be interested to hear your opinion of the Fairtrade wines (SA and others) you saw in Europe during your recent visit and whether you think the current selection on offer is a sufficient base to create a viable sub brand on? My impression is that Fairtrade works wonders for Rooibos (SA’s quiet diplomat) but for wine a lot of work is needed not to mention cooperation with countries like Chile with whom we share the logo and all its ‘qualitative associations’.

  4. Neil November 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm -

    Hi Pinto

    Alas, was only in France and the Netherlands and think Fairtrade is mainly an invention for British supermarkets. However, the winelands grape riots were wallpaper in Europe which must impact tourism.

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