Wine farm workers become land owners

Workers on three wine farms in the Western Cape will take ownership of one of the farms, said the owners on Sunday.

“An innovative empowerment deal will transform employees on the three Franschhoek-based Solms properties into land owners after generations of tilling vineyards on which they had no claim,” said Paula Wilson, the spokesperson for the farms.

The properties include the adjoining Solms-Delta, Lübeck and newly-acquired Deltameer, which form a 76 hectare estate. The farms are home to more than 200 people.

“In terms of the deal, South African-born neuropsychologist Mark Solms and United Kingdom partner Richard Astor would transfer Deltameer into a trust owned by the farm workers,” said Wilson.

The farmworkers’ Wijn de Caab Trust is sustained by a profit share in Solms-Delta.

Solms and Astor are directors of the trust and employees would benefit from the transfer of management skills provided by the existing farms, said Wilson.

Investec funded the Deltameer acquisition—for which Solms-Delta and Lübeck provided the necessary collateral—and provided development capital for upgrading. The initiative brought the assets in the joint venture to R62-million with R23-million in liquid capital.

The trust would wholly purchase the active portion of Deltameer from Solms and Astor either via grant funding or bank financing, with any loan repaid through profits.

Solms, who returned to South Africa to acquire Delta in 2002, said his excitement at coming back was “tempered by a sense of discomfort in becoming a white farmer”.

“The social realities of the farm labourers were hard, stuck in a semi-feudal system that left them with little or no choices in life.
Few wineland transformation projects involved the transfer of viable land ownership, based on the argument that the properties were too expensive,” he said.

He believed the transfer of land ownership was necessary to transform the industry.

South African wine guide Platters 2006 rated the Solms-Delta shiraz blend Hiervandaan 2004 and rosé Lekkerwijn 2004 as four-star wines. The Solms-Astor range would concentrate on traditional South African grapes and Cape blends, said Wilson. - Sapa

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