Minister leads fight to reclaim rooibos brand

Communities in the Western Cape should get traditional knowledge royalties on rooibos tea products, provincial economic development minister Lynne Brown said on Wednesday.

“I would support that,” she told a media briefing in Cape Town ahead of her first-ever budget address in the legislature.

Brown has already promised she will lead the fight to reclaim the rooibos name from the company that has copyrighted it in the United States.

She said a team including “the finest patent lawyers in the country” had been established to wage this battle.

Winning back the brand would restore not only the international market for the tea, but also the dignity of “our people”.

She said rooibos was what the Khoikhoi and San people drank when they walked the land, and it was important to protect indigenous knowledge and indigenous rights.

Asked what communities royalties should go to, she said she thought the ones that worked in the rooibos industry, picking the plant in fields or on the mountains of Wupperthal and the Cedarberg.

Last year San communities won a protracted legal battle to secure royalties from the planned development of an anti-obesity drug from the hoodia plant that their ancestors had used.

The deal, which included the South African government, was considered a landmark in the field of international property rights. - Sapa


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