Amandla Awethu – Aikona!

It is quite ironic that Amandla Awethu used to be the most popular freedom chant in the struggle against Apartheid. It means “Power to the People” and that is exactly what the people of South Africa won in 1994 and lost in 2008! Due to poor planning and poor leadership, South Africa is in the midst of a major shortage of electricity.

The national electricity monopoly, ESCOM, has embarked on a series of often-unpredictable blackouts or brownouts as they are sometimes called in other countries. These have forced some of the country’s largest mines to shut down due to safety considerations and the risks brought about by unscheduled power cuts.

For a winery, the lack of electricity is also severe, especially during the harvest which is now just days away. A lack of power means no crushing can take place, which will result in fruit either becoming overripe on the vine or oxidized in the heat on the crush pad. Without power, there is no capacity to manage temperatures, which will severely impact on the quality of the wines, especially for delicate white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc.

As a winery with a strong focus on wine tourism, the problems are potentially much broader. Weddings without power seems like a romantic notion, but in reality become a very costly nightmare for the bridal party and their guests on the most special day. Same for other celebrations and conferences! Restaurants and wine tasting venues also cannot function effectively without power and without systems running it becomes impossible to do business and get orders processed.

Fortunately we anticipated the power problems and its impact, at design time back in 2000. A huge 250KVa generator backs the winery complex, which includes the tasting center, offices and Cotage Fromage country restaurant & deli. The Manor House, Jonkmanshuis, Historic Cellar and Vineyard Terrace venues are backed by another large 115KVa generator. We have a third 75KVa generator higher up on the farm ensuring that the longer-term bottle storage facility remains online all the time.

It often frustrates me when potential clients complain about the cost of hiring our venues, when you look at what people pay for hiring marquee tents that cost very little in comparison to multi-million Rand venues. Especially when you consider the fees include a fully fitted function kitchen (no need to hire in catering equipment) and is fully backed by industrial strength generator.

We recently asked for a few quotes to see what it would cost to hire in a comparable industrial generator, set it up and ensure that it comes on when the power goes. The quotes came in at R10,000 per day all inclusive! So when one really compares apples with apples the value offered by our all-inclusive, dependable packages on top of the beautiful setting becomes tough to beat!

The cost though of running on generators is nearly 10 times more expensive than the cost of ESCOM power, so while we can ensure that the ‘show goes on’, the operating cost impact to us and others running on generators is significant.

Lets hope that the offline ESCOM power plants come online sooner than later. The SA government has to understand that the most important concept they have missed in their quest for real economic power to the people is simple: “A’s hire A’s. B’s hire C’s”. Without the right people in the right job (all the way to cabinet level), this country has no hope of realizing its true and massive potential.

It is not about the colour of the person at the top, it has to be about the capacity to execute effectively! Get over the race issue and that will lead to true upliftment of those who suffered under Apartheid.

PS Vrede en Lust owns the Amandla trademark in Class 33. At some stage we may use it for a brand. Right now it would be a joke!