The wine world is full of inspirational stories, this week I heard one more uplifting story belonging to Ntsiki Biyela, a South African wine maker determined to force the idea of regional integration as imagined by SADC politicians. Ntsiki left her home in Kwazulu Natal, in South Africa at a young age to go and work as a domestic worker in Gauteng whilst also raising money for her education.
Ntsiki attended education full time while working in the morning and at night as a domestic worker. Today Ntsiki Biyela is the Winemaker and Director of Aslina Wines, a company named in honour of her late grandmother, Aslina. Interestingly, Ntsiki’s mother was against the idea of her daughter following her footsteps of being a domestic worker, but a compromise was reached, that she works part time but focuses more on her education. For Ntsiki, the decision to go to Gauteng for a domestic vocation had all the hallmarks of emancipation. She had wanted to do chemical engineering but was rejected by educational institutions at the time, but she never gave up.
She grew up in Mahlabathini, a rural village in Kwa Zulu-Natal, where she matriculated from high school in 1996. Having spent a year as a domestic worker, she was awarded a scholarship through South African Airways to study winemaking at the University of Stellenbosch in 1999. She graduated in 2003 with a BSc in Agriculture (Viticulture and Oenology) and joined Stellekaya, a boutique winery, as their Winemaker in 2004.
But how does Ntsiki relate to Botswana? She was invited into the Botswana market by Justwine, a local company that specializes in re-distributing wines made by black women in Africa. To grow her export portfolio, Ntsiki jumped into the invitation. She is in Botswana to promote her wines and the Justwine brand. “The idea of Justwine came about during the COVID-19 era, we just thought of what we could do to augment our life persuasions, and we decided to pick something that we were passionate about – wines,” said G, one of the promoters of Justwine. According to G, they happened to meet Ntsiki through a family friend and they decided to court her on their idea and things took off swiftly. “At Justwine, our objective is to distribute wines made by black women so that we help them access the SADC market.”
With the very current national conversation focused on women’s rights, social justice and regional integration among other issues, Justwine promoters want to use the space they have identified in the wine industry to push other women entrepreneurs. Ntsiki’s most pronounced brand in Botswana is Aslina. She is hopeful that the African market will surpass her expectation. She expressed concern that as black women in business, everything they do is always scrutinized especially outside Africa because they come from a different market, ‘but where you have done your homework, there is general acceptance of products.” Because of her background, Ntsiki insists, “I wanted the winery to reflect my eco-ethics.” Ntsiki’s Aslina wines have ranges if wine-blend, umsasane, cab sauv, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc.
“For everyone involved and everyone in this industry, it is a difficult experience. But it is also one that challenges us as small-business owners and tests our foundations and structures. When times are good, you have to have a plan in place because things can change in a heartbeat and you have to be ready that quickly,’” Ntsiki says.
Decision making and believing in oneself is critical for any potential entrepreneur – For 13 years she worked for Stellekaya predominantly in the wine tasting room. In 2011 she told her boss that she wanted to quit and start something of her own, she got a positive response, “that’s what all wine makers do,” the boss said. She met an American wine maker who inspired her to make her first and second vintage in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Later in 2015 she made a wine of her own, which was followed by trips to France, America and other western countries where she got more inspiration as buyers appreciated her product. Then in November 2015, she finally made the decision to resign from Stellekaya.
Had it not been for her hard work, Ntsiki’s success might not have been forthcoming, given inherent stereotypes in the wine industry and the financial huddles she had to overcome to complete her formal education. Given the fact that the wine industry is dominated by whites, Ntsiki had to demonstrate beyond normal in order to persevere. “It took commitment, consistency and believing in oneself,” she said.
“Who was going to trust Ntsiki without a UC-Davis degree or any inherited money?” one of the Botswana partners asked. Instead, she used her wine as her resume, handing out bottles, saying “here, I made this wine.” Ntsiki has managed to penetrate markets in the East, West and lately Africa. She declared that 90 percent of her sales are made of exports, by this statement, Ntsiki is inadvertently admitting that South Africa is not her cash cow. However, operationally South Africa’s epicenter of wines, the Cape, houses her platform where she is renting out a vineyard where she sources grapes.
Today, Ntsiki is a full-time operator of her Aslina winery, an enterprise that gives her 100-percent control over the process from grape to bottle. She is currently producing about 16,000 cases per year from 40 acres of estate vineyards in the Cape. According to Ntsiki, the pandemic not only strengthened them as a business but she managed to seal deals during the pandemic, including the Botswana partnership. She is also eyeing Swaziland, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee (CC) meeting, chaired by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi late last month, resolved that the party’s next Secretary-General (SG) should be a full-time employee based at Tsholetsa House and not active in politics.
The resolution by the CC, which Masisi proposed, is viewed as a ploy to deflate the incumbent, Mpho Balopi’s political ambitions and send him into political obscurity. The two have not been on good terms since the 2019 elections, and the fallout has been widening despite attempts to reconcile them. In essence, the BDP says that Balopi, who is currently a Member of Parliament, Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, and a businessman, is overwhelmed by the role.
The Botswana Defence Force (BDF)-Namibians fatal shooting tragedy Inquest has revealed through autopsy report that the BDF carried over 800 bullets for the mission, 32 of which were discharged towards the targets, and 19 of which hit the targets.
This would mean that 13 bullets missed the targets-in what would be a 60 percent precision rate for the BDF operation target shooting. The Autopsy report shows that Martin Nchindo was shot with five (4) bullets, Ernst Nchindo five (5) bullets, Tommy Nchindo five (5) bullets and Sinvula Munyeme five (5) bullets. From the seven (7) BDF soldiers that left the BDF camp in two boats, four (4) fired the shots that killed the Namibians.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s decision to apply for the positions of United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and their deputies (DSRSG), has left the government confused over whether to lend her support or not, WeekendPost has established.
Moitoi’s application follows the Secretary-General’s launch of the third edition of the Global Call for Heads and Deputy Heads of United Nations Field Missions, which aims to expand the pool of candidates for the positions of SRSG) and their deputies to advance gender parity and geographical diversity at the most senior leadership level in the field. These mission leadership positions are graded at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels.