Solms-Delta work­ers’ trust share­hold­ing is in­creased to 45%

CityPress - - Business - NEESA MOODLEY busi­ness@city­press.co.za

A lit­tle over 10 years ago, neu­ro­sci­en­tist Mark Solms bought a fruit farm in pic­turesque Fran­schhoek with the idea of turn­ing it back into a wine farm.

How­ever, there were al­ready about 10 fam­i­lies liv­ing on the farm, and they had been work­ing there for gen­er­a­tions.

Gen­eral man­ager and wine­maker at Solms-Delta Ha­gen Viljoen says Solms de­cided to look for a way to em­power the work­ers so that it could be­come a fruit­ful re­la­tion­ship for ev­ery­one.

Sus­sanna Mal­gas, one of the work­ers on the farm, says: “He called us all to a meet­ing and said: ‘Look, I can’t make you rich, but I can help to give you a bet­ter fu­ture.’”

He started by es­tab­lish­ing the Wijn de Caab Trust in 2005 with Richard As­tor, who bought a neigh­bour­ing farm. They then bought a third neigh­bour­ing farm, which was handed over to the trust – and the work­ers were the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the trust.

This in ef­fect gave the trust and the work­ers a onethird (33%) share in the com­bined farms, which take up 76 hectares.

While all three farms pro­duced fruit when the part­ner­ship was formed, Solms had done his re­search and set about plant­ing vines to recre­ate the orig­i­nal wine farm.

Late last year, the Na­tional Em­pow­er­ment Fund (NEF), with sup­port from the depart­ment of ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and land re­form, came on board as a part­ner, in­creas­ing the trust’s share­hold­ing in the farm to 45%.

“A fur­ther 5% share­hold­ing is held by the NEF, which plays an over­sight role with a seat on the board. This will con­tinue for five years un­til the NEF is sat­is­fied that the busi­ness is sus­tain­able, and the 5% stake will then be trans­ferred to the trust, giv­ing it an ef­fec­tive 50% share­hold­ing,” says Viljoen.

The Wijn de Caab Trust has about 250 ben­e­fi­cia­ries, and 95 em­ploy­ees live on the farm.

Other ini­tia­tives run by the trust in­clude im­proved education for all farm work­ers’ chil­dren who at­tend ei­ther Fran­schhoek pri­mary or high school, which are for­mer Model C schools, as well as sub­sidised ac­cess to pri­vate med­i­cal care.

Mal­gas says her life has changed dra­mat­i­cally since Solms bought the farm.

“When Mark came, there were 10 to 14 peo­ple in one house and all our bathing fa­cil­i­ties were out­side. Once you fin­ished school, if you were lucky enough to get that far, you had no fu­ture to speak of.

“The trust has made a big dif­fer­ence, es­pe­cially when it comes to education for our kids. My son Clint fin­ished ma­tric at Fran­schhoek High School two years ago. He has done a hospi­tal­ity course and now works at wed­ding func­tions,” Mal­gas says.

“He has a lung and heart con­di­tion, and the trust paid for all his med­i­cal care up to the age of 18. I would never have been able to pay for that my­self.”

Mal­gas be­gan work­ing on the fruit farms at the age of 12 and also worked for Solms as a do­mes­tic worker for many years.

“I started singing with the choir here on the farm, and grabbed op­por­tu­ni­ties as soon as they came up. So, from there, I learnt about the his­tory of the farm. This re­minded me very much of my grand­mother and the sto­ries we heard from her. At the time, I did not un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of her sto­ries, but now I do. So when Mark opened the his­tory mu­seum at Solm­sDelta, I started giv­ing his­tory tours. Now I am a wine am­bas­sador and host wine tast­ings, and I have learnt so much about wines,” she says.

Solms has also es­tab­lished the Dik Delta Trust, which is de­signed to em­power the broader Fran­schhoek com­mu­nity through mu­si­cal train­ing. It spear­headed the Fran­schhoek Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val be­fore it was handed over to the Fran­schhoek Tourism Bureau.

In what other ways can farm work­ers be­come more em­pow­ered?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word FARM and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

STAMP OF AP­PROVAL Sus­sanna Mal­gas, who is now a wine tast­ing am­bas­sador at Solms-Delta, started work­ing on the for­mer fruit farm at the age of 12

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