WOSA calls SA wine farmers “ignorant”

Neil Pendock May 14, 2012 10

Su Birch, CEO of exporters’ mouthpiece WOSA for well over a decade, launched an extraordinary attack on her constituency earlier this month on the WOSA blog.  Announcing a push for WIETA, the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association, she claimed:

“We have over 3600 primary producers, many enlightened, others still trapped in the old ways of thinking.  Some producers are ignorant, some are useless at paperwork so have no systems, others are fearful, many of them are barely surviving financially.  But because South Africa has a shameful past, not just as recent as apartheid, but dating back to colonial exploitation and slavery, we have to acknowledge that we cannot say we are leaders in production integrity when there are still farmers who do not treat their workers fairly.”

Such incendiary comments in public throw gasoline on the fire ignited by last year’s Human Rights Watch claim that SA wine farmer’s still practice slave labour and one can only speculate as to what Su hoped to achieve by such an amazing attack on the people who ultimately pay her generous salary.

Whatever the motivation, comments like these are certainly not the best way to advance fair trade wine in SA and will lead to polarization and hardening of attitudes.  Indeed one particularly ignorant wine farmer told me “Su is the Julius Malema of SA wine.”


  1. Pietman Mostert May 14, 2012 at 10:51 am -

    Re: Su Birch vs WOSA…

    This is an emotive issue. And invite historical guilt. And that is why white wine farmers tend to ignore the vicious tags of “ignorance” and “perpetuating slave labor” thrown at them. Admittedly, we ( including the English speaking brotherhood) carry the collective weight of apartheid and colonialism with us. But somehow it is mostly previously discredited liberals and those doing the wine “glamour management” that are really vocal and seem to remind us of our wicked and evil past. Yes, all generalizations are false…including this one….but there is no other farming pursuit more aware of labor conditions and the improvement thereof than the wine farmers. Boland Coetzee pioneered the new thinking in the 70’s already. If individuals are identified as exploitative operators and bosses…name and shame them….but these generalized condemnations deserve contempt and scorn….

  2. Pieter F. May 14, 2012 at 10:52 am -

    “…old ways of thinking…..ignorant… useless at paperwork….no systems…fearful…..barely surviving financially…..shameful past….apartheid…..colonial exploitation and slavery…farmers who do not treat their workers fairly.”

    Can she tell us what she really thinks of South African wine producers??

    Talk about biting the hands that feed you!

  3. Pietman Mostert May 14, 2012 at 11:17 am -

    Perhaps her reputation as the Julius Malema of the SA Wine industry is not undeserved….

  4. Hantus Fourie May 14, 2012 at 11:47 am -

    Do Sue’s comments also reflect the position of Vinpro and SALBA? We need to be told urgently.

  5. Nicky May 14, 2012 at 11:49 am -

    Now Neil, I used to think that you were a bit tough on WOSA in the past, but reading this is shocking.

  6. Neil Pendock May 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm -


    This is nothing. Andre Morgenthal, the incompetent media director at WOSA, threatened Wellington producers he would cut WOSA funding if they speak to me. Legal steps anticipated.

    South African wine deserves so much better than these two bullies Su and Andre, who are both well past their sell-by date.

  7. Shoe Sue May 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm -

    Amazing that all these farmers pay there industry levies on a yearly basis and anti Sue blows it every year and then she complains that we can’t pay.

    My understanding is that Wosa is there to grow the market so that farmers can plant more and that all becomes economicly viable so that we can pay people more.

    But it seems that if you fail in your job or school you turn to politics.But anti jy het die youth league gemis maybe juluis has a position a cattle herder for you

  8. Fannie May 19, 2012 at 11:58 am -

    How does this idiot keep her job? If it’s not insulting Chinese customers, it’s insulting farmers. Sue must go.

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