Open Letter to the President from Just a Normal Wine Guy

Dear President Ramaphosa

I represent no-one but myself, who is – like you – an African. Although history has divided our respective heritages, I believe we share more than many pessimistic onlookers and commentators wish to think.

In my 56 years on this South African earth, many attempts have been made to highlight the differences between the nations and cultures co-existing within our borders. Perhaps I have been stubborn or disinterested or naïve in my digesting of this information and propaganda. For I believe we have more in common than what separates us. There is a greater bond between you and I – a white Afrikaner and a black man of the Venda nation – than many would care to believe. These commonalities are not limited to you and me. They form part of the interwoven fabric of that which defines all Africans.

Foremost of these is a true love of the land, and specifically our great land of South Africa. You and I have only to look back a generation or two to know we are both of farming stock. Descendants of people whose lives depended on the crops and the soils; the livestock and the water; the sun and the sky. To feed people with beef and maize. To nourish their souls with wine, the beauty of flowers and indigenous botanical wonders, such as rooibos tea and waterblommetjies. Farming the land and watching over the cattle and the sheep, the horses and the goats. These have not only benefitted the bodies and the minds of our nation’s people, but have given all those who farm our patch of national earth a sense of pride and self-worth. Rooting them to this country like few other modes of business can.

What we Africans also share, is a genuine and heartfelt respect for those who offer us some form of courtesy. This is complemented by our warm hospitality, the ebullient nature of which is not matched anywhere on earth.

I am of the opinion that the deep-rooted affection for the land and those who work the earth, as well as the common decency among ourselves and respect for one another, should be immune to the greatest of crises, the most unforeseen of circumstances.

This is why, Mister President, I wish to respectfully alert you to the fact that you have failed a large section of your country’s people in ignoring certain aspects of the very being of South Africanness. Traits that we should be proud of and should watch-over. With envy and with zeal. But which you choose to disregard.

A large part of this proud farming heritage of South Africa, one that is also world-renowned, is in a state of devastation. The growing of grapes and making of wine has been synonymous with our national legacy since 1659. The quality and reputation of our African wine, which we promote globally on behalf of all South Africans – yourself included – is quickly becoming a memory. If the current pandemic, the scale and scope and horror of which I fully comprehend, continues to disallow the local trading of our agricultural treasure called Wine of South Africa, then a once-proud segment of society will disappear. My society. Our society. Your society. People and communities. Villages and towns. And thousands-upon-thousands of vineyard farmland. This is a world you and you alone have brought to its knees.

But, Sir, I am sure your briefing teams have by now bombarded you with facts and statistics stating the impending unemployment and loss of income to the country’s economy, including to that of the State. I know this tragedy is not only playing out before my very eyes, but yours too. Here we are divided, however. For you are party to the annihilation of the industry I refer to, as well as the destruction of the society attached to it. Without showing the respect to explain your decision to do so.

The second aspect about which I am very disappointed to have seen you fail me, is this one of simple respect.

Twice – before the municipal elections of 2016 and as a new president in 2019 – twice your fellow African farmers, fellow sons of the soil, have opened our doors to you. You were invited to visit a wine farm in Stellenbosch, the same on both occasions. You were welcomed warmly. You wore that swanky ANC leather jacket and laughed when I asked to which motorcycle club you belong. We shared with you our food and drink and, under our roof, gave you the opportunity to speak to us, as you wished to do. You opened your heart about matters of the nation, and we offered you the courtesy of listening.

Hospitality. Respect. Brothers and sisters of the soil under the great sky of South Africa. Together, as we should be.

Thus, Mister President, it hurts me to state that you have disappointed me in your lack of manners, grace and decorum. Yes, the abrupt declaration as illegal of an agricultural product with a deep-rooted history and proud legacy, hurts. It hurts me like the hundreds of thousands of others in the wine industry you know of.

But what is beginning to hurt more is the realisation that the common ground I was led to assume we shared, does not exist. You have taken it away, leaving only a small pile of dirt which you kicked back into my face. By not even acknowledging the pleas from the very people who afforded you respect and hospitality, and gave you a voice. By not deigning to listen – not from the hymn of the excel spreadsheet, but from the voices of reason offered by those who, once, entertained your hopes, your dreams and your pleas.

Like a caricature of a politician, you led me to believe that beneath the prestige and the presidency, there was a heart. The kind of heart I want so very much to believe is unique to all Africans, one that beats an own rhythm and one that, despite all our nation’s problems, has the ability to bring hope. A hope deserved of being shared by all the people you now govern over.

A hope that is dwindling by the day and by the hour. As quickly as the grapes are turning sour and the bitterness in the mouth is fed by the tears of despair.

Yours sincerely

Emile Joubert






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32 thoughts on “Open Letter to the President from Just a Normal Wine Guy

  1. Liked the open letter – but feel that what ought to be said is that the president appears unable to stand up to the criminals who surrounds him – he is the president after all and their criminality is know. Yet they walk free and are able to dictate our way of life – with not a singe reprisal to disturb that ever weird motivations direct their actions.
    We know that unity and peace requires awareness of the voiceless – yet the voiceless remain so with paternalistic platitudes about washing hands and keeping social distance – when there are families living in one room and neighbors have to share outside toilets , when there is no water to drink, let alone wash your hands for 20 seconds …. its immoral.
    all best – hope your letter makes some difference …
    Jacki Watts

  2. This was fair and straight from the heart. The one thing we as humans at times forget is that we all use our minds and feed our intellect continously. The part that we at times forget is that we have emotions and a will that we use when we are hurt or lead down. This man had trust and believe in our President and made room for him and others in his heart but was and is very disappointed in the current situation they have to go through and hope that his letter will touch the President heart as well. I hope our President allows himself to feel and to act when he reads this letter and give a proper answer or feedback that will cause some hope to our farmers who are begging for help. The love and passion is clear from him, and he should be given a chance to come up with solutions in this difficult time.Not only the the thoughts and thinking of scientist’s and politicians count when major decisions are made but the wisdom and direction can come from leaders that own businesses and farmers who work for the better of S.A. and our people. Many people have worked on this farm and know the heart of this man and the drive he had for not only wine but for people (his people) and I belief that this hurts more than just being out of buisiness. May our President respond in a proper way.

  3. My heart is also sore about our wine industry. I stress about the economy of our country. Why should our wine lovers who do not harm anyone be punished in our dearly presidents decisions regarding the ban on wine sales? Punish the people who do wrong by all means but not us law abiding tax paying citizens please???

  4. Beautiful Letter full of what was lead to believe but also not what was and is still happening. Unfortunately there is hatred from haters and not engough love from all there is us too divided to come together ever. Too ureal for emotion too sad and unwelcome but Stronger will overcome x Peace ✌

  5. What an absolutely brilliant well worded and forthright letter, congratulations and I sincerely hope the President takes notice!

  6. As per your style, a very well worded and heartfelt letter Emile. You have always had a great “way with words”. Well done on your message. I hope it hits home yet I doubt it will reach his ears, let alone elicit a reaction.

    1. Hi Mark
      Thanks so much. This is a seminal year for the wine industry, and everyone that can should do what they are able do to help.

  7. Thanks Emile
    You’re letter highlights the fact that no matter what your objectives, or expectations were with your invitation to the president, nothing could gave been said or done to change his attitude because he is a globalist, doing the bidding for his masters of The Round Table.

    His small part in spearheading the destruction of the South African economy.
    Whats happened in recent months and continues to happen, makes this glaringly obvious to anyone with even the slightest will to look.

  8. Thank you Emile for being a voice for those that cannot talk and taking a stand for the SA Wine & Hospitality sectors in our small but powerful country with the greatest people, many of whom are now jobless, families torn apart en poverty stricken.

  9. Never a truer word said. I think you hit the nail on the head not that I think it will make any difference to the decisions made by his corrupt advisors. I truly hope that your letter opens their eyes to the devastation to the industry. Well said.

  10. I too knew you personally and am totally appalled that a person who built a strong business, can allow thieves and people who make decisions to line their pockets, you are going to have a lot to answer for, when you meet Mr Madiba again. Stop your rainbow nation is now tainted in all doom and gloom, where is the promised new tomorrow. If you and your family were in our shoes how would you feel

  11. Dear Emile,

    My fellow African, thank you for your kind words and recognition of our shared African heritage. What you say is true, there is more that binds us under African skies than separates and we should celebrate the fact that we, as fellow Africans, have to face whatever comes together in the spirit of Ubuntu.

    It is an unfortunate and unpalatable fact that the picture you paint of a land sustaining and nourishing its people has only been true for a select few Africans for many generations now. This is a still fresh wound on the soul of our society and one which flares up from time to time causing pain, suffering and brings with it a measure of concern that some in our society remain willfully blind to the damage that has resulted from generations of your fellow countrymen being denied the chance to commune with the land in the way you so poetically phrase it. I do not wish, however to rebuke, chastise or lecture you with the facts that so often are glossed over when we discuss the actions of the past as too often that results in a retreat into ways of thinking that belong in the past. We need to address them, but not here and not now.

    When the imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol was introduced it was done in the full knowledge that it would cause hardships and struggles across the whole industry. Winemakers, breweries, distilleries, coopers, retailers and consumers were all affected. To impose such a ban was not done lightly but in the harsh realisation that our proud country has, now and in the past, a problem with alcohol.

    Whilst I am sure that, in the pleasant green environs of Stellenbosch, the enjoyment of fine wines and spirits adds to the spice of local life, there is a harsh reality that away from the roiling green vineyards and fine examples of Cape Dutch architecture the country is dying. Not figuratively but literally. Over 6000 of your fellow Africans have lost their lives to a disease we cannot control.

    Far from the grape scented winelands there are places I have visited, who have shown equal hospitality and given more than they could actually afford in doing so, where hundreds of thousands of your fellow Africans live side by side without the benefit of even a small pile of dirt to truly call their own. In these environs alcohol is used as a means of escape from the harsh realities of daily life and too often this results in violence and suffering as the ravages of drink make a bad situation worse.

    I have also visited hospitals and funeral homes where the perpetrators and victims of alcohol related tragedies live with the legacy that our country faces in its ongoing battle with alcohol. Whilst we are normally able to keep pace with the beast and do what we can to blunt its impact to tolerable levels we now face fighting a war on two fronts as Covid joins the fray. Our hospitals, clinics, doctors, nurses and paramedics cannot cope with the combined casualties from both.

    We cannot fight both the ravages of alcohol and the scourge of Covid. To attempt to do so would result in too many deaths for our already fragile society to deal with. We face nothing less than the breakdown of civil society and if that happens there will be no future for anyone under our African skies. We cannot fight on both fronts, we cannot stop Covid however we can and have enforced a ceasefire on our battle with alcohol by removing the source of the ammunition.

    To say there is not deep regret at this action is untrue. To say we do this for any other reason than to do what we can to face this battle with Covid.

    Whilst you may blame me for this gobal pandemic I can assure you I would like nothing more than to fill my days again with visits to wine farms and enjoy the hospitality of those fortunate Africans who can entertain so lavishly.

    One of the popular concepts of your particular African tribe is the concept of ‘fasbyt’. I encourage you to exercise this tradition and ride out these hard times.

    The good times will return but until then, please keep the plight of those less fortunate than you in mind and do what you can to help.

    Not Cyril.

  12. My brother, I do not usually place or respond to people hiding behind an untrue identity. But you stated it so eloquently, why no? Feel free to contact me for a personal discussion anytime.
    A booza continua

    1. Sadly I exist in a profession that would take a dim view of me expressing my opinions out in the open. I could lose my livelihood if my identity became known.

      A sad state off affairs but none the less true.

      Not Cyril.

  13. Dankie, Emile,
    Jy stel ons ontnugtering op so n eerlike, respekvolle maar reguit, diep persoonlike manier dat dit vir Cyril sekerlik beskaamd sal laat.

    Ek hoop hy kry jou brief te lees, want jy s^e wat so baie van ons dink en voel.

    Ongelukkig sal hy sy siel verpand om te keer dat die ANC skeur. Hy was nog altyd n politikus eerder as n man van die grond.


    1. Hallo Anna, baie dankie ek waardeer die nota. Kom ons hoop hy luister na meer stemme as wat tans die geval is. Groete

  14. As black south african I strongly disagree with you ,what you saying it’s only when its suits and beneficial to you people .The black child is still economically oppressed and you tell me that there more binding us than what is separating south Africa there is an up coming unled revolution .only time will tell.

  15. Hi Emile,

    I do not know you but, I do get a true sense of heartfelt passion not only for the land but also its people. Traits such as these one do not find every day. It takes more than just courage to write what you have and my prayer is that Cyril will not only read your writing but act on it. We are entering dire times and my heart goes out to all farmers who have been feeding the masses since time immamorial. Keep on keeping on I know it’s easier said than done. Many would say “byt vas” but byt vas on what.
    May God grant you the wisdom to overcome the unthinkable and the mountains before you. Your love for Africa and the land will conquer all.
    Best wishes
    Glen Vermaak

    1. Dear Glen
      Thank you for your kind words. I will pass on your wishes to my partners in the wine industry.
      Kind regards

  16. Hi Emile,

    I do not know you but, I do get a true sense of heartfelt passion not only for the land but also its people. Traits such as these one do not find every day. It takes more than just courage to write what you have and my prayer is that Cyril will not only read your writing but act on it. We are entering dire times and my heart goes out to all farmers who have been feeding the masses since time immamorial. Keep on keeping on I know it’s easier said than done. Many would say “byt vas” but byt vas on what.
    May God grant you the wisdom to overcome the unthinkable and the mountains before you. Your love for Africa and the land will conquer all.
    Best wishes
    Glen Vermaak

  17. Thank you so much for this. I truly hope the Mr President gets to read this as the wine farms of this Country are world known for their excellence. It would be a travesty to see them closing. Well said and thank you for your well worded letter. Much appreciated by many I am sure.

    1. Dear Lindsay. Thanks so much for your inspiring comment. The issue is that government does not realise the complexity of the wine industry. It is not a case of shutting doors and opening up. There is a huge value chain that is affected. Perhaps they will learn through this episode. Thanks once again. Emile

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