News - Sun rises for workers as they take over share of export grape farm

A new season is bringing a fresh dawn for workers on a large Northern Cape export table grape farm after a landmark agreement to make them shareholders.

A partnership between Peu Bezuidenhout of Naftali / Monte Estate and his workers will mean that 65 workers now own 25% of the newly established Rekopane Estate which incorporates all the assets and activities of the farm which was known until recently as Naftali/Monte Estate.

The historic partnership is the latest land transformation project backed by the Department of Land Affairs through its land reform funds.

The new partnership, which also has financial backing from Standard Bank in the form of a loan, was celebrated at Rekopane Estates last week.

The worker shareholders are all members of the newly formed Loretlhabetse Trust. The word Loretlhabetse is Tswana for "the sun has risen for us".

Rekopane means "we have come together".

Located on the banks of the Orange River near Kanoneiland, west of Upington, Naftali/Monte Estate, and its owners, the Bezuidenhout family, have become among South Africa's best known seedless grape growers.

Peu Bezuidenthout and his workers built Naftali/Monte Estate from six hectares in 1979 to 528ha now.

Of this, 212ha are planted with table grapes, the produce of which is exported to markets around the world.

Obed Mvula, chief director of Land Affairs, said 65 permanent farm workers from Natalie/Monte Estate expressed their wish to become shareholders in the business.

They approached the Northern Cape Provincial Land Reform Office and it was decided to support this under the Farm Worker Equity Share Scheme.

The project was done under the Land Redistribution Programme for Agricultural Development as a Farm Worker Equity Scheme project on privately owned property.

The department contributed R6.5 million towards the workers' shareholding.

Bezuidenhout said the partnership created real ownership for people who had played an important part in the development of the farm.
Expansion of Rekopane Estates will see another 68ha of new table grape varieties and 60ha of citrus fruit being planted.

The new orchards and vineyards will be developed over the next three years.

Capespan Foundation chief executive Nazzeem Sterrar said its grant for training and development at Rekopane over the next three years would amount to R500 000.

Support for Rekopane's people would be focused on skills development and technical training where it was required, he said.

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