The transaction worth R65 million and funded by the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) through the Wijn de Caab Trust, builds on the 33% stake that wine estate owners Mark Solms and Richard Astor handed over to farmworkers in 2007.

It also forms part of the Rural Development and Land Reform Department’s pilot project dubbed the Relative Rights of People Working the Land programme, which is aimed at transforming the industry by creating 50–50 partnerships between farm owners and their workers.

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“It is a positive step for transformation, we can get things started and get everyone involved. We’ve never been in this position before,” Wijn de Caab trustee, Jasta Karoles, was quoted saying in an IOL report.

“We’ve never been part of this kind of decision-making and that is part of the transformation. We would like to work together. It is a positive thing for all of us. It is a new approach for the business.”

Solms said the progressive move was a step in the right direction in so far as correcting historical wrongs and transforming the wine industry that has by-in-large remained untransformed.

“The demographics of land ownership in South Africa are a very pressing issue, an indefensible and unsustainable legacy of apartheid which we ignore at our peril,” he said.

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“The extent of the land that we at Solms–Delta identified and developed for the ultimate benefit of our workers has been increased through this transaction from 20 hectares to 50 hectares and their share of equity in the company has also been increased from 33% to 45%.”

The NEF will own a 5% stake in the business with one seat on the six-member board.  Two people will represent the farmworkers on the board.

–Additional reporting by IOL