Bitter Grapes – Full English Script

  1. (Narration is bolded and read by the South African actor, David Bateson)

    Bitter Grapes FINAL

  2. How wine gets to the table is not a straightforward journey. It’s often a journey of real hardships and a journey of deprivation.
  3. It’s a journey that is filled with many, many challenges for the farm worker
  4. The situation from 1994 has got worse. After apartheid it’s worse. More than a million farm workers have been evicted from South African farms.
  5.  You still have that: “you are worth less than me, you are my employee and you shall do what I tell you, despite what the law says.
  6. My dream is like everyone’s dream. To have a house, a car and a proper home with the wife and everything. To have a proper job who can pay you a living salary, that you can know that at the end of your life, your family will benefit out of it, you know.
  7. (…) often farm workers are denied the most basic conditions of labor: The right to speak to your boss, the right to join a union, the right to demand overtime
  9. When the table-cloth is pulled over the Table Mountain in South Africa, it is – according to the legend – a battle between good and evil
  10. Here in the Western Cape province another battle is going on
  11. Because the Scandinavian consumers are thrilled about the cheap, good quality wine
  12. The imports are growing and growing
  13. Since 2006 the import of South African wine has increased by 78 % in Denmark
  14. In Sweden, South African wine is the number two top- seller ?    
  15. More than 50 million liters of South African wine are enjoyed here in the Nordic countries
  16. We went to South Africa to investigate if the wine we cherish so much has been produced under decent conditions for the workers and for the environment.
  17. And there is an eye on us. The same day that we arrived on our third trip to South Africa, this message was circulated to more than 130 people from the wine industry:
  18. HEADS UP:
  19. It has been brought under our attention that there are an international man and woman doing their rounds on the farms.
  20. (…)
  21. They are asking unethical questions to workers and changing the angle to a negative.
  22. Be careful and avoid where possible.
  23. Every morning between six and six thirty – hundreds of farm workers are collected in the outskirts of the town of Robertson – some 150 kilometres North of Cape Town.
  24. Many of them used to live inside the wine yard, but today they live in slum towns far away from the wine yards. Others are migrant workers from neighbouring countries like Lesotho and Zimbabwe
  25. By law, all workers have the right to join a Union. All are entitled to a fixed minimum wage and everyone should be offered a good and safe working environment.
  26. In addition, the owners of the vineyards must follow a number of ethical and social requirements that the Scandinavian retailers have demanded.
  27. In our policy for ethical trade, we make a number of general requirements that must be observed by all Coops suppliers – Danish as well as foreign.

If they make a mistake or don’t comply with or rules

we enter into a dialog with them.

We don’t automatically throw them out.

We believe that development comes

through dialog, so we say:

“How will you solve this?”

Then they have to commit themselves.

If they continue to make mistakes,

then they are thrown out.

  1. Sub: Jens Juul Nielsen
  2. Head of Information
  3. Coop
  4. The organization, which will act as the Nordic distributors’ eyes and ears in South Africa, is called Wieta. It is Wieta who will ensure an ethical and sustainable production.
  5. Today, almost half of the 3.300 wineries and producers in South Africa signed that they will comply with the ethical code that the organization Wieta has described
  6. If they meet the standards, then they can put this label on their bottles.
  7. But ONLY if they meet the standards:
  8. ”There is a contract, that the winery need to undersign and the conditions in that contract states very clearly that if a site certification lackses
  9. …that that wine is not eligible to carry the seal on the bottle.
  10. Sub: Linda Lipparoni, Wieta
  11. In South Africa more than 100,000 workers are living inside the vineyards.
  12. Far away from the public eye.
  13. We will talk with them and see how they are, but several wineries say no.
  14. ”(…) your request to access the properties of Leeuwenkuil with an investigative journalist is hereby denied (…)
  15. Please note further, that it is a criminal offence to trespass on private property and that Mr. W. Dreyer reserves his rights to lay such charges.”
  16. We have obtained imformation about serious violations regarding the ethcial standards and the law is being broken at the Leeuwenkuil – farm
  17. So we come un-announced
  18. The winery, Leeuwenkuil is a supplier to the Nordic market
  19. And this is how the owner Willie Dreyer presents himself and his family at the farm
  20. An image that doesn’t quite match the conditions for the farm workers at Leeuwenkuil.
  21. “It’s not blinking anymore”
  22. We therefore had to use small and discrete cameras to document the conditions in the privately owned wine yards
  23. For the workers’ safety, we have – in several cases – chosen to hide their identity:
  24. I have been working on the Leeuwenkuil form for 15 or 16 years.
  25. I work in the vineyards
  26. We get € 6,7 per day
  27. Have you said that to the farmer, that the minimum wage is € 8,2
  28. We have to be satisfied with what we get.
  29. Sub: Worker
  30. Leeuwenkuil
  31. The thing that the female worker here says, is an illegal underpayment.
  32. And we hear the same from the male workers:
  33. And you work 12 hours every day and you are paid 130 Rands for 12 hours?
  34. Yes
  35. So no overtime?
  36. No overtime
  37. Sub: Worker Leeuwenkuil
  38. Maybe that’s the reason why the owner of the Leeuwenkuil-farm, does not roll out the red carpet for journalists:
  39. They don’t want you to see the lie. And you will see more than that lie. You will see people that look like slaves …
  40. Sub: Trevor Christians,
  41. Secretary General
  42. CSAAWU (Union for farm workers)
  43. We have obtained a number of pay slips from the workers at the Leeuwenkuil farm and present them to the deputy secretary general of the union, CSAAWU:
  44. What we see here is that it’s about 80 percent deductions – so this deduction exceeds violations of the South African laws of the country.
  45. All the deductions on housing and electricity must not exceed 20 % meaning that if you buy food or any other expenditures – so this combined thing must not exceed 20.
  46. Sub: Karel Swart, Deputy Secretary General, CSAAWU
  47. We would like to make an interview with the management at the Leeuwenkuil farm but they refuse to talk to us:
  48. (…) we do not comment or allow interviews on unsubstantiated allegations
  49. The managing Director points out that the winery has been approved by the labeling organisation, Wieta, and that he will not discuss the working conditions at Leeuwenkuil with reporters:
  50. Today the Managing Director, Kobus De Kock from Leeuwenkuil wrote to me saying that off course all our laborers from Leeuwenkuil has freedom of expression. They are free to talk to
  51. any one?
  52. It is a total lie. It’s a total lie. I can’t tell you how many workers there that have been dismissed from Leeuwenkuil.
  53. Sub: Karel Swart, CSAAWU
  54. When workers at Leeuwenkuil would meet with their Union it was not only the owner who was involved. According to the Union leader the police also got involved
  55. What we normally see when we will enter the farm, he closes down the gates that makes it impossible for us to come in and he threaten us. In the past he phoned the police and tell the police – as soon as he see me on the farm – he phone the police and the police is following me
  56. Sub: Karel Swart
  57. And the Nordic retailers are well aware of the winery.
  58. In March 2016, the entire management-team from the state owned, Systembolaget in Sweden visited the Leeuwenkuil – farm
  59. Apparently the visit exceeded all expectations.
  60. This is how the vice president of Systembolaget wrote:
  61. I would like to express my sincere and warm gratitude for receiving us during our recent visit to South Africa.
  62. We appreciated the open dialogue and listened with great interest to the presentation of Leeuwenkuil and your work on sustainability.”
  63. Kind regards,
  64. Marie Nygren
I read Marie Nygren’s e-mail and thought it was nice and polite.
A meeting can be a positive surprise
– although there are inconsistencies.

That’s why we’re here in South Africa.

The reason our assistant director

goes to countries like South Africa is

– that there are major problems.


  1. Sub:
  2. Ida Ingerö
  3. Deputy Head
  4. Press and Society relations
  5. Systembolaget
  6. Either Systembolaget is blind or deaf. You can’t see what is going on in Leeuwenkuil – or you can’t hear what is going on.
  7. See, these pay slips are legal documents. It’s legal in terms of the law
  8. It is a clear violation of the South African laws.
  9. It’s a clear violation of the ethical standards of Wieta.
  10. It’s a clear violation of Systembolaget’s ethical code
  11. Sub: Karel Swart, Deputy Secretary General, CSAAWU
  12. I can’t say if the wages violate the law. We’ll have to look into that.
  13. Sub: Ida Ingerö, Systembolaget
  14. Leeuwenkuil is approved by the labeling organization, Wieta and by the wine industry bodies
  15. That means that Leeuwenkuil-wines – like all other export wines from South Africa – also carries this label on the bottleneck.
  16. And at Wieta it appears that the wine from Leeuwenkuil is “fair” when it comes to workers’ rights.
  17. Instead of punishing a winery that has violated the very same ethical rules that they have signed, Wieta believes it is better to talk about things:
  18. The approach that Wieta takes during a process of a mediation for example if we find that there is a violation on a particular farm, and we investigate the violation, the producers – along with stakeholders involved in that particular incident that need to through a process of mediation.
  19. That process of mediation, Wieta believes needs to be a developmental process where you put all the stakeholders together to try and resolve the particular issue, identify the root course of what that issue is and then seek to restore the relationship on the farm
  20. Sub: Linda Liapparoni
  21. Director, Wieta
  22. After we obtained the many pay slips from the Leeuwenkuil farm, we show them to Linda Lipparoni from Wieta during a new interview:
  23. Look, this is very serious. We will have to take it up and I’m glad that we now have copies.
  24. We have to take it up with Leeuwenkuil.
  25. Sub: Linda Lipparoni
  26. Every other weekend, when the workers have been paid, they take to the cities in huge numbers to do their shopping for the next two weeks.
  27. In the liquor store and around the streets scores of people are drinking heavily.
  28. Several of them are young pregnant women
  29. The large amounts of alcohol consumed has given South Africa a scary World record:
  30. In South Africa 10 % of our communities that we have evaluated thus far have foetal alcohol spectrum disorders which puts their levels 10 times higher than 1. World countries such as Denmark
  31. Sub: Denis Viljoen, Chairman, Foundation for Alcohol Related research
  32. The massive alcohol use has historical roots:
  33. When the colonists first came to the Cape – the Dutch colonists – they introduced alcohol as a form of payment. It was in fact not only a payment. It was also a form of social control (….) and that is the DOP-system
  34. Sub: Leslie London Professor
  35. Public Health Medicine
  36. UCT
  37. Paying your workers with wine instead of money has been banned in South Africa since 1960.
  38. But the ”DOP-system” still exists – just in other forms, says Leslie London:
  39. So what happens today largely is that if workers are alcohol dependent, the farmer will continue to supply them with alcohol and sell it to them cheaply and sell it to them on credit.
  40. Sub: Leslie London
  41. There are still some conservative farmers out there who think nothing of our workers, and who want to keep them into the enslavement to alcoholism, so that they can have them there as their slaves, basically.
  42. Sub: Henriette Abrahams,
  43. Sikhula Sonke,
  44. Bestyrelsesmedlem, Wieta
  45. This is Robyn. A girl of 10.
  46. Robyn’s brain is damaged because her biological mother drank large amounts of alcohol during her pregnancy
  47. Robyn was a year and 11 months when my brother brought her to me. She was in a terrible state…..
  48. Sub: Sonja, Foster mother
  49. The cardinal features of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome are firstly: The central nervous system is severely damaged. It’s the most toxic substance known to mankind that has ever been produced massively, and that’s alcohol.
  50. So drinking alcohol affects the foetus, the unborn baby, very, very severely, particularly in the central nervous system.
  51. Sub: Denis Viljoen, FARR
  52. Studies have shown that about 60,000 children in South Africa are born each year with what is called FAS, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  53. For years Kirsty Donald from the University of Cape Town has carried out research into the brain damage caused by alcohol abuse during pregnancy
  54. There are some hot spots areas in South Africa where the spectrum is as common as in one in five – in certain areas ….it’s one of the highest in the world.
  55. Sub: Dr. Kirsty Donald, Ass. Professor
  56. The Red Cross Memorial Children´s Hospital
  57. Cape Town
  58. A lot of the young mommies, they still drink. So I tell them, you know while they are pregnant that this is the product.
  59. Sonja, Foster mother
  60. Robyn is ten years old, but mentally, where does she belong?
  61. Robyn is probably closer to a 4 or 5 year old when it comes to her cognitive development…
  62. But she struggles with impulsivity and hyperactivity – and doesn’t always realize dangers that she is putting herself in and as a result of that. So she needs a lot of adult care and supervision in her life.
  63. Sub: Kirsty Donald
  64. I am pregnant.
  65. Congratulations
  66. 3 months
  67. But do you know, it can be dangerous to your child, if you drink, the fetus?
  68. No, …..It’s not dangerous or nothing.
  69. I want to drink. I like to drink
  70. Sub: Susanna, former worker
  71. Growing wine often requires the use of pesticides.
  72. While the grapes ripen from September to January they will be sprayed again and again
  73. How many times do you think you will spray every year?
  74. Wine you spray from starting of September/October and it is 6 – 9 times
  75. 6 to 9 times?
  76. Yes
  77. Sub:
  78. Pesticide dealer
  79. Anything like that is toxic. It’s designed to kill a weed or an insect. And the grade of the toxicity. The problem with most pesticides is that we might understand the acute toxicity well, but we understand the chronic long-term effect much more poorly.
  80. Sub: Leslie London
  81. Many of the pesticides used in South Africa has for long time been banned in Europe.
  82. During our trip, we see no workers being protected against the dangerous chemicals
  83. Under the law, anyone who works with pesticides must use protective gear like masks, boots and gloves.
  84. Shirley Davids, who is a local adviser to the union CSAAWU, believes that the pesticides are to blame for many illnesses among the workers.
  85. The health issues. It’s not good for people because they are spraying pesticides. The tractor is buzzing on this side; the people are working on that side. And I know of a woman that looks like she’s burnt because of pesticides, her skin is getting off, she’s getting pink of that.
  86. Sub: Shirley Davids
  87. Paralegal advisor
  88. CSAAWU Union
  89. If you are not working safely and if you are not aware of the risks you will be exposed and you might develop acute toxicity and you might develop these long-term problems.
  90. Certainly dizziness is a very common symptom. It’s a symptom of a class of pesticides. These are the Organophosphates such as Chlorphyrifos, which is widely used.
  91. Sub: Leslie London
  92. Chlorphyrifos is prohibited in the production of food in Denmark, Sweden and Norway:
  93. It’s an obligation for any employer in South Africa to ensure surveillance and monitoring of workers. To ensure that they are trained and to ensure that they understand what they are doing. The Occupational Health and Safety Act are very clear and it’s actually quite a strong piece of legalization. The problem is enforcement.
  94. Sub. Leslie London
  95. Leslie London does not believe that the authorities are thorough enough:
  96. So the Department of Labor hardly go to any farm to inspect – unless there is somebody who has died.
    Sub: Leslie London
  97. Have you had any training in using this?
  98. No
  99. No training
  100. Sub: Workers
  101. In the official legislation and in the ethical rules of the labeling-organization, Wieta it is not allowed to use pesticides without proper training and use of the necessary safety equipment.
  102. Not to be rude, Linda. But are you doing your work properly?
  103. Tom, it’s a really, really important question and I think the fundamentals of Wieta is that NGO’s that are working in these regions and trade unions that are working in regions – they have a fundamental role to play to be our eyes and ears and to bring any of those violations or bad labor practices to our attention.
  104. And I’d be very interested to find out which farms they were, because we will clearly follow up on those farms – but unless we actually have the feedback – and I think the challenge is that workers often are not comfortable enough to give that feedback.
  105. Sub: Linda Lipparoni, Wieta
  106. In the peak season – when the harvest is underway – often permanent workers works side by side with the fast growing group of migrant workers from countries like Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Tanzania
  107. Most migrant workers live like Thaolang from Lesotho. Her face is covered in a thick cream, because she believes that it can protect her better:
  108. It’s because I want to protect the skin from the pesticides on the farm it’s not because of the sun, but because of the chemicals.
  109. There are many other workers who also are affected by the pesticides.
  110. We get allergies and rashes.
  111. How much are you paid for a week?
  112. Sometimes € 13 – 19
  113. But if I divide your weekly salary – let’s say 300 Rands – you only get around 60 rands a day?
  114. But do you know that this is below the minimum wage?
  115. Most of the workers are paid by piece – almost all of them
  116. I know it’s not legal, but what can I do. On all the farms its piece work.
  117. It is very hard work, and I have to be very quick if I want to earn € 3,8 a day
  118. Sub: Thaolang Qhobosheane, farm worker
  119. The increasing number of migrant workers desperate to get a job is pressing the wages down to as low as € 0,4 per hour – far below the official minimum wage, says James – a field worker from the Union BAWSI:
  120. The migrant workers are mostly paid 55 rands a day
  121. And the normal wage is?
  122. The normal wage is 120 rand at the moment
  123. Sub: James Cornelius
  124. Field worker
  125. BAWSI Union
  126. Also Wieta are aware of the many problems with the dumping of wages and poor living-, and working conditions:
  127. In terms of current legislation that has been tabled, there is currently a very, very contested debate, because there is a lot of exploitation that happens within these very structures – particular among the most vulnerable workers and that’s woman
  128. Sub: Linda Lipparoni
  129. My name is Francina. I’m 23 years old and I’m from Lesotho.
  130. I struggled in Lesotho.
  131. There are no jobs?
  132. No
  133. Sub: Francina Mabolokang
  134. Farm worker
  135. Lesotho
  136. Francina tells us that she is not working for one particular farm. She works for a labor broker that contracts jobs for her on a number of farms. Just like the vast majority of other migrant workers we meet:
  137. Do you have family back in Lesotho?
  138. Yes, I have family and children back in Lesotho.
  139. I really miss them, especially the children.
  140. Sub: Francina Mabolokang
  141. Farm worker
  142. Lesotho
  143. This is one of the most popular wines from South Africa.
  144. Robertson Winery is among the largest exporters of wine from South Africa.
  145. Everywhere in the Nordic countries one can find wine from Robertson Winery
  146. The enormous amounts of grapes come from 35 smaller producers in the area. All are owners of the corporative, Robertson Winery
  147. The wine from Robertson Winery is also approved by the labeling organization Wieta as a sustainable and ethically produced wine.
  148. This is the farm, La Colline – one of Robertson Winery’s many suppliers and part owners:
  149. My name is Sarah Windvogel and I worked on La Colline farm for 20 years. When we joined the union and the strikes started, and we were not supposed to be part of a union.
  150. But we joined the union anyway and that is when the fight with the farmer started.
  151. Sub: Sarah Windvogel, former worker
  152. La Colline
  153. In this letter – sent to state owned Systembolaget in Sweden – dated all the way back to 2013 – the NGO, Ethical Wine Trade Campaign writes that there is something wrong at the winery, La Colline:
  154. My name is Samuel Windvogel. I lived and workers on La Colline farm for 27 years.
  155. This is also were I met and after a while she moved in
  156. That’s how we got connected and married there.
  157. Actually I was born on this farm as well as my children were.
  158. We raised the children and send them to school, and we actually also got married on this farm.
  159. The farmer treated us like pigs so I joined the union
  160. But the farmer didn’t like that. And he would clean the farm from union members
  161. Sub: Samuel Windvogel
  162. Former worker
  163. La Colline
  164. Today, Sarah and Samuel are living in the outskirts of the town Robertson – with no access to water or toilet:
  165. That bush. This one. That’s my toilet.
  166. You can see how my house looks like…
  167. How many people are you here?
  168. Five plus two. Seven
  169. You are seven people in this house?
  170. Yes!
  171. You don’t have any water here?
  172. No water.
  173. No water?
  174. Just water in those three.
  175. We are cooking food from this….
  176. Sub: Samuel Windvogel, Former worker, La Colline
  177. The owner of La Colline-farm will not participate in this program but insists to us that no workers have been evicted from their homes
  178. During the Apartheid regime most of the farm workers lived inside at the wine yard,
  179. After the first democratic elections in 1994, a new reform was introduced which ordered the owners of the vineyards responsibility for workers’ housing and working conditions.
  180. As a countermove from the owners’ side, many of the workers were fired and re-hired as casuals – without the right to housing.
  181. However, later a new law gave the workers who have lived and worked on a farm before 1997 the right to live there the rest of their lives if they had worked on the farm for more than 10 years, were over 60 years of age – or worn out.
  182. La Colline is approved by Wieta. According to Sarah – Wieta has previously visited the winery, says Sarah:
  183. I can remember when I came from work. Zandra came with WIETA with an overseas guest.
  184. I was busy making food on the open fire and she asked why I am making food outside.
  185. I told her there was no electricity.
  186. The foreign man wanted to see my house, but they didn’t like that
  187. The foreign man went in and saw the kitchen and the toilet and asked how can we eat like this?
  188. …and then I said we have been without electricity for about six months
  189. Sub: Sara Windvogel, Former worker, La Colline
  190. Trevor Christians is co-founder of the union CSAAWU and has been Secretary General for the past 7 years. He says that the Nordic buyers are well aware that wine producers break the laws and the ethical rules:
  191. They know. They know. It’s not just us that told them so. The Human Rights Watch has told them so. The ILO report told them so, the government report has told them so.
  192. So they are quite aware of the conditions on the majority of South African farms.
  193. Sub: Trevor Christians
  194. Secretary-General
  195. CSAAWU


It is slowly getting better.


Systembolaget is monitoring

the situation in South Africa.


We send people there regularly

because it is a “risk country”.


It’s slowly moving in the right direction.


If a farm or winemaker

or any of the Swedish importers


– is unwilling to move forward –


– then we won’t hesitate

to terminate the contracts.


– You haven’t done so in South Africa?

– No.


There is progress,

and that’s the main thing for us.


  1. Sub: Ida Ingerö
  2. Systembolaget
  3. Also the Union, Sikhula Sonke, which mainly organizes female workers, is also a former member of the board of the labeling organization Wieta.
  4. They have also warned Systembolaget several times about the conditions on the farms:
  5. Johan Larsson is the South African buyer of Systembolaget, so he would be the South African representative coming three or four times every year he comes and purchases wine or taste what’s the new wine and so forth for the Swedish market for Systembolaget…..
  6. We are not being heard. We are not being heard.
  7. We are talking and talking and talking but nothing has changed from Systembolaget’s side.
  8. Sub: Henriette Abrahams,
  9. Secretary-General
  10. Sikhula Sonke
  11. Former board member, WIETA
  12. Johan Larsson from Systembolaget and the management of the La Colline-farm – who supplies grapes to Robertson Winery – declined to be interviewed for this film:
  13. Interview won’t be possible (…) We distance ourselves from this false accusations and have no further comment.”
  14. Deneco Dube is a former farm worker. Now he tries to organize the local workers:
  15. On many farms. On many, many farms farmers don’t like unions, even though it’s a constitutional right for workers to join a union.
  16. They don’t like unions on their farms.
  17. So when workers join the union for the first time, according to law, you have to send the list of union members to the farm.
  18. The law gives them 30 days. Within the 30 days, you will search for and find the leader, or someone speaking out on the behalf of workers.
  19. Even if it’s lawful, or if it’s unlawfully he dismiss them.
  20. He believes that, when you cut the leaderships head, the whole body is nothing anymore.
  21. Sub: Deneco Dube,
  22. Paralegal adviser
  23. CSAAWU
  24. However, Wieta refers to the fact that it’s the single producer or cellar that is responsible for the working conditions:
  25. Individually each farm and each cellar is committed to ethical trade.
  26. As an organization one cannot be held responsible for the day-to-day behavior that would happen on a farm.
  27. Sub: Linda Lipparoni, Wieta
  28. You see Wieta is a very toothless organization. There have been many complaints to Wieta. There were complaints as far as five or seven years ago….
  29. Wieta is basically the mouthpiece of the bosses. I can say: Wieta is not there for the workers. Wieta does not play a neutral role.
  30. Wieta are not supporting the workers. Wieta are not enforcing ethical standards.
  31. All what Wieta do is to collaborate with the farmers and deny that the farmers ever do the things?
  32. Sub: Karel Swart, CSAAWU
  33. Not far from La Colline lies the vineyard, Eilandia – also supplying grapes for Robertson Winery.
  34. Here, too, the labelling organization, Wieta – and thus the Danish and Swedish retailers – have approved the working conditions
  35. But we are beginning to sense a pattern:
  36. Did you use mask and gloves?
  37. Yes, we had mask but it was not comfortable to wear. It makes you very hot.
  38. Did you ever get sick?
  39. Yes. Itching, chest problems and breathing problems.
  40. Sub: Edwin Plaatjies
  41. Former worker
  42. Eilandia.
  43. To complain about dirty drinking water or lack of salary may – according to the workers – result in huge personal consequences:
  44. I have raised my concerns about the water problems on the farm.
  45. I said that we should treat each other with respect.
  46. The farmer must have the same respect for me as I have for him.
  47. He told me that if I’m not going to do what he says, I must resign and leave the farm
  48. Edwin’s colleague was also dismissed because he demanded to get paid for the overtime he had done:
  49. I was a waterman on the Eilandia farm.
  50. Edwin and myself didn’t strike, we only asked for our overtime.
  51. That’s all we asked for. The farmer dismissed us – just like that.
  52. Sub: Former worker
  53. Eilandia
  54. People say that Apartheid is gone, but if you go into our rural areas, you will find that Apartheid is still very much alive. (…)
  55. We still have assaults. We still have Union bashing.
  56. You still have atrocious bosses, or employers, treating their people still as slaves.
  57. You still have that: “you’re worth less than me, you are my employee and you shall do what I tell you”, despite what the law says.
  58. Sub: Henriette Abrahams, Sikhula Sonke, Former board member, Wieta
  59. People can’t hold someone who sees something that is wrong, because if I see that something is wrong, I speak that it is wrong and it can’t be done like that. You must know your working rights, even on farms.
  60. But at a farm you can’t say ‘this is right, and this is wrong’. You can’t say, or you will be fired.
  61. They don’t speak to you, they say: ‘You come to politic here to my people.
  62. Get out of my farm.’ You must do exactly what they say to you.
  63. Sub: Siyabuela
  64. Farm worker
  65. The organization, TCOE works, among other things, to strengthen workers’ right to own their land and to improve education for the poorest. Here – Mercia Andrews describes the wine’s journey from the field to the table:
  66. How wine gets to the table is not a straightforward journey. It’s often a journey of real hardships and a journey of deprivation.
  67. It’s a journey that is filled with many, many challenges for the farm worker. In many cases they are deprived of a social life. They live in the remote areas, there is no public transport for them to do anything over the weekends, or in the evenings, to go and see a film, just the most basic of social things is a challenge.
  68. Then the wages that they earn; They earn peanuts, they can barely survive.
  69. Sub: Mercia Andrews Director, TCOE
  1. We also meet ”Margareth”. She is 6 month pregnant.
  2. In South Africa – just as in the Nordic countries – it‘s illegal to dismiss a woman just because she is pregnant:
  3. When he got to the farm he said that the women’s work is unsatisfactory and we don’t pick enough grapes.
  4. If we can’t work properly we must go home. So I told him but I’m pregnant and does not expect me to lift the heavy bins.
  5. He told me to stay at home if I can’t work anymore
  6. Sub: “Margareth”
  7. Former worker
  8. Eilandia
  9. According to our informations, Margareth is no longer at the vineyard
  10. However, when the labelling organization Wieta visited the Eilandia farm, it was the improvements that ended in focus:
  11. From the conversation that we had with the workers they had said to us that there had been huge improvements. That a lot of the grievances that they previously had with management, had been addressed and that they felt that the process they had regarding the communication was in fact working
  12. And that was the feedback that we had.
  13. We have a man there. He was dismissed because he was outspoken to the farmer and said that the drinking water was dirty?
  14. You know: That didn’t get raised among the workers. We asked them if there was still issues that they wanted to raise – which is why the committee actually would have the opportunity to meet the workers and certainly those issues weren’t raised.
  15. Sub: Linda Lipparoni, Wieta
  16. He dismissed a lot of workers – so when workers complaint about dirty water and health and safety – then he victimize the workers. He intimidates workers. He dismisses workers and so on.
  17. So how it is possible that a person that is not allowing freedom of speech, a person that is in violation of the ethical code – how is it possible that he serves on the board of Robertson Winery.
  18. Sub: Karel Swart, CSAAWU
  19. We have tried to get a response from the owner of Eilandia, Mechau Viljoen but he has not responded to our e-mails.
    The young man who was fired because he required to get his overtime paid, is – according to our information – still without a permanent job

  20. Dagrofa is Denmark’s third largest supermarket-chain. And Dagrofa is a distributor of wines from Robertson Winery. We have presented the critique from – among others – Eilandia and La Colline for them, but they do not want to participate in an interview.
  21. Instead, they sent us this e-mail:
  22. It is Dagrofas clear position that our suppliers obviously must comply with the rules set forth by our trade agreements. (…)
  23. Therefore we will implement a so-called “third party inquiry” and we have decided to immediately suspend purchases of wines from Robertson Winery. (…)
  24. When we have the result of the investigation, we will take a decision on whether wines from Robertson Winery will be included in our range in the future.
  25. Despite the suspension of imports we could still find wines from Robertson Winery in those of Dagrofa’s shops which we visited after receiving the mail
  26. We visit yet another producer that supplies wine to the Fakta-shops – owned by Coop in Denmark
  27. One of the suppliers to Simonsvlei is the wine yard, Firwoods
  28. Here we meet a number of workers that tells us about rundown homes and toilets that are locked – so they have to use the wine yards:
  29. Last week Wieta was here.
  30. We told them about the problems, but they didn’t come back.
  31. We have no toilets.
  32. And they visited this house?
  33. Yes, they visited this house – only this house
  34. Sub: Workers
  35. Firwoods
  36. Wieta was there – the health and safety inspection – they went into one house. They talked to two labours, and they walked away and they spend six minutes?
  37. Who told you that?
  38. The workers
  39. Because there are major non-compliances on houses.
  40. You have to tell me why an inspection can only last for six minutes?
  41. That inspection did not last for six minutes.
  42. There were several houses that were investigated and there are major-non compliances on the housing
  43. So what is going to happen now?
  44. They have to start repairing that.
  45. It’s part of their corrective action plan.
  46. Sub: Linda Lipparoni
  47. Our latest inspection of the three suppliers was in the spring and the two largest were ‘green’ and one was ‘yellow’ in some aspects and we have entered into an agreement on how to solve those problems so, by harvest time in 2017, they’ll be ‘green’ with their sub-suppliers.
  48. So you haven’t seen any ‘red lights’?
  49. We could, but if they’re ‘yellow’ the following year then we’re satisfied.
  50. If they’re still ‘red’, then it’s over. We want to influence the development in countries
  51. whose conditions are different from ours, and in a positive way.
  52. Sub: Jens Juul Nielsen
  53. Director of Information
  54. Coop
  55. At all the wineries named in this program, we have send detailed questions about the conditions that we have seen and heard in the vineyards.
  56. But all the owners declined to participate
  57. So we continue to Robertson Winery to talk to the director, Bowen Botha.
  58. Also he has got all the questions sent.
  59. Good morning.
  60. The questions I raise in my film is very serious allegations against Robertson Winery.
  61. And I think that it’s very important that Robertson Winery get’s a chance to speak.
  62. Yes, I know that Bowen discussed it with our members yesterday, but I think it’s best to speak to Bowen about it. 
  63. Finally, we get some help.
  64. Wieta’s director, Linda Lipparoni manage to arrange that we can meet Robertson Winery’s director, Bowen Botha and the Export-director Geoff Harvey at the offices of Wieta:
  65.  Oh, hi,
  66. Bowen Botha
  67. Tom Heinemann
  68. Pleased to meet you
  69. Pleased to meet you
  70. But it doesn’t´ go quite as planned
  71. We are certainly not going to talk to you on camera.
  72. It’s very hard to make television, when people do not want to stand in front of me and talk to me on a camera?.
  73. We can have a chat and we can talk to you on issues in the process and that sort of thing.
  74. But we are certainly not going on camera.
  75. But I was told yesterday that you wanted to participate in an interview?
  76. No, No, No, No
  77. Can you turn it off?
  78. Yes, I’m not filming
  79. The simple reality is that you want to paint the entire industry in a bad light.
  80. That is your motivation.
  81. The directors from Robertson Winery know that we have talked to several workers who told us about the illegal dismissals and evictions. About dirty drinking water and hazardous working conditions.
  82. But we can’t disclose the names because of fear that they will lose their job:
  83. I’m telling you now. You are wrong.
  84. We have the evidence you don’t have.
  85. You made allegations without the proof.
  86. We will provide the truth
  87. Will you say that on camera?
  88. You come and do the investigation but without giving us the opportunity to give you the truth.
  89. But you don’t want to say that on camera?
  90. No, I don’t want to shake your filthy hand.
  91. You are a disgusting piece of rubbish
  92. The meeting with the two top executives from Robertson Winery and Vinimark was attended by Wieta ‘s director, Linda Lipparoni .
  93. Shortly afterwords she sent us this e-mail:
  94. ” (…) the staff and I are still shocked at the events that took place on Friday and dismayed at the disrespectful way and abusive manner in which you and your wife were treated by Mr. Harvey and Mr. Botha. (…)
  95. The harsh tone during the meeting gets the board of Wieta to react. This is evident from a number of e-mails that we have obtained.
  96. Mzukisi Mooi – who serves as the chairman of the board – is Operative director of Centre for Rural Legal Studies writes:
  97. Dear All
  98. I am flabbergasted beyond comprehension… and appalled – to say the least. (…)
  99. The Board of Wieta is composed of nine members. Four represents the workers –
  100. and the other five is appointed by the wine industry bodies.
  101. One of them is the deputy chairman, Donald Mouton, representing the wine producers at the board.
  102. Also he interferes in the debate:
  103. Dear all
  104. Sitting at well-intended, round-table discussions with Systembolaget, unfortunately doesn’t improve the situation for many a farm worker.(…)
  105. For me personally, it seems as if modern day slavery is practiced on many farms, and the farmworker is almost viewed as “the property” of the employer. 
  106. Another – now former – board member, Henriette Abrahams from the Union, Sikhula Sonke replies:
  107. (…) We clearly have a case of power imbalances at play here and producers especially those with deeper pockets seem to think they own Wieta as their marketing tool.
  108. So part of the board of Wieta apparently question their own efforts.
  109. Still Wieta maintains that the workers are treated well at Robertson Winery ‘s many suppliers and shareholders.
  110. That the workers in the South African wine industry is illegally underpaid, exposed to dangerous pesticides or get fired for protesting about the conditions is not a problem.
  111. The vineyards continue to add the attractive label from Wieta on the bottles:
  112. Are there wineries or farms that has been – literally speaking – kicked out of Wieta.
  113. Have you have any incidents of that?
  114. We haven’t had incidents of were – as you say – wineries have been kicked out.
  115. I think it’s important, Tom to understand that this is not necessary the approach that Wieta will take.
  116. Sub: Linda Lipparoni, Wieta
  117. For the workers in the Western Cape province in South Africa the harvest is done. A new season is coming
  118. Everything is – as always
  119. The importers are ready. New wines will be tasted and evaluated
We draw the line when they don’t change

the things we asked them to.


If improvements are made,

we continue to do business with them –


– because we believe that’s the way to

  • make permanent changes in South Africa.


  1. Souschef, Presse og Samfundsrelationer
  2. Systembolaget
  3. We raised the things with Systembolaget for the last five to six years. Systembolaget is quite familiar.
  4. We met Systembolaget in Sweden and we meet with Systembolaget in South Africa. Systembolaget even send out their own auditors to follow up on complaints.
  5. That’s about three to four years ago. And until today we so no improvement.
  6. After the audits from Systembolaget the things became from bad to worse
  7. Sub: Karel Swart, CSAAWU
  8. The label on the bottles that is supposed to ensure the consumers a guarantee for decent working and living conditions for people and the environment – does not include him, says Suyibuela
  9. I am still young; I’m the future. I am bright, I can travel the world, I can see things from somewhere, I can go to other countries. I can do anything.
  10. But, if you don’t have something to do yourself, we don’t have contacts for going somewhere else. That’s why we end up on farms.
  11. All of my life I am on a farm.
  12. But me – as a poor person who is working with this manual labor I’m getting nothing.
  13. I become poorer.
  14. But for some – there is hope for a change
  15. In late August 2016, workers at the Robertson Winery plant went on strike.
  16. They are demanding a doubling of their salaries – which stands at just € 268 a month:
  17. I think you, as a consumer of South African red wine, you have to help to change those conditions by making ethical choices, by beginning to say that you will only drink red wine that comes from farms and from distillers that take into account these conditions and that are willing to make changes in the lives of farm workers, and that they treat farm workers with human dignity and don’t deny them their rights.
  18. Sub: Mercia Andrews
  19. When the table-cloth again is pulled over the Table Mountain in Cape Town, a legend tells a story about the battle between good and evil.
  20. After finalizing this program, a spokesman for Robertson Winery informs that some of the workers who were interviewed were not dismissed because they demanded their overtime paid or to complain about dirty drinking water, but that they were dismissed under the rules in the labor law in South Africa.
  21. (END)