The farmworkers’ champion who is a business owner
JEANNE VAN DER MERWE
THE man at the centre of urging Western Cape farmworkers to rise against their bosses is himself a wine business boss.
Nosey Pieterse, of the Black Association of the Wine and Spirits Industry (Bawsi), who marched this week through the Boland with striking workers, even has a stake in KWV, one of South Africa’s largest listed wine companies.
Pieterse, is a director in a company, Withmore 1, which holds a 25% stake in KWV. Bawsi holds a 23% stake in that company.
He is also a former director of another company, Phetogo Investments, which was also involved in the KWV empowerment deal.
But, asked about the apparent contradiction on Friday, Pieterse claimed he hadn’t been getting any income from the KWV venture, as the company had not paid dividends for the past two years.
He said any earlier income from the empowerment venture was channeled to the Bawsi trust to be used in projects funding small businesses and assisting evicted farmworkers and NGOs supporting farmworkers.
“I’ve been volunteering at Bawsi since May last year. The staff had to be retrenched, and the same with the union, because we had no funds,” he said.
“I asked the people to come and work as volunteers. I had to cash in my three sons’ unit trusts to keep Bawsi going, and I had to cash a personal policy of R500000 and an annuity, and I had to sell my son’s quad bike,” he said.
Shaheed Mahomed of the Cape Town-based Workers International Vanguard Party slated Pieterse’s involvement in the strike.
“Here we have a capitalist who is the secretary of a union that claims to represent farm workers interests,” he charged.
He said Bawsi’s shareholding in KWV made it “part of the bosses of the wine sector” and questioned how Pieterse could be both a union boss and a shareholder in an employer.
He said all he had in KWV were shares.
“There is nothing coming out [of the KWV empowerment deal],” he said
He denied there was a conflict between his stake in KWV and his speaking on behalf of striking farmworkers.
“Bawsi is a minority shareholder,” he said.
Online company records show Pieterse is also a director in a company called Re-Invest, which was associated with Lindiwe Wines, of which he was the executive director.
Pieterse told Media24 Investigations that Lindiwe had been liquidated some years ago.
Company records show he is a director in five other companies involved in the wine industry, as well as nine other active companies, including a clothing company, a construction company, a rooibos tea co-operative, a transport company, three retail companies and two which are listed as doing community work.
However, Pieterse claims that none of these companies provided him with any income, but that they were set up as part of job-creation ventures done under the Bawsi banner, and that he was running Bawsi and its affiliated trade union on a voluntary basis.
This week he was quoted as chairman of farmworkers’ union, Bawusa, claiming that farmworkers had been intimidated by farmers and were in need of being “rescued”.