Bitter Grapes – Slavery in vineyards

”I don’t want to shake your filthy hand. You are a disgusting piece of rubbish”.

The message was clear when the film crew confronted one of the biggest exporters of South African wines. An industry that does not like to be investigated. An industry that offers cheap – but good wine to the International and Scandinavian market booming with wines from South Africa.

22 years after the Apartheid regime fell farm workers in South Africa are still seen as a commodity rather than workers with constitutional rights.

 

The workers in the flourishing province, Western Cape – working 9-12 hours a day – for as low as € 3,5 are muted. Unions are denied access to their members. Their houses are falling apart and according the industry itself workers are denied the most basic rights:

“For me personally, it seems as if modern day slavery is practised on many farms, and the farmworker is almost viewed as “the property” of the employer”, says a farm manager.

Meanwhile tourists and wine experts are touring the wine yards on wine safaris and wine tasting tours – living in lush and restored houses formerly inhabited by the workers.

Their destination is the townships where they live without water, sanitation and electricity – in cardboard houses and tin sheet roofs.

The Nordic state owned alcohol monopolies and retailers have apparently turned the blind eye to their own Code of Conduct. They rely on the South African wine industry’s own seals of “Certified fair labour practice” and “Integrity & Sustainability” . A label – accused as being nothing but a marketing tool for the industry – by the organization that was supposed to improve the living-, and working conditions for the bottom of the pyramid in South Africa.

 

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