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A Cape to Cairo inspired wine story

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, Ntsikis 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 womens 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. Ntsikis 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. Ntsikis 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, thats 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, Ntsikis 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 Africas 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.

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BCP, AP stalemate in 7 constituencies

21st March 2023

When the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Alliance for Progressives, Botswana Labour Party (BLP), and conveners reconvene next week, the controversial issue of allocation of the seven constituencies will be the main topic of discussion, WeekendPost can reveal.

Not only that, but the additional four constituencies will also dominate the talks. The idea is to finally close the “constituency allocation phase,” which has proven to be the most difficult part of the ongoing negotiations.

Earlier this year, the two parties announced that the marathon talks would be concluded by February. Even at a media briefing last month, BCP Secretary General Goretetse Kekgonegile and Publicity Secretary Dr. Mpho Pheko were optimistic that the negotiations would be concluded before the end of February.

However, it is now mid-March and the talks have yet to be concluded. What could be the reasons for the delay? This is a question that both Kekgonegile and Pheko have not responded to, as they have ignored the reporters’ inquiries. However, a senior figure within the party has confided to this publication as to what is delaying the highly anticipated negotiations.

“We are reconvening next week to finalize constituency allocations, taking into account the additional four new ones plus the outstanding seven,” he explained. It later surfaced that Gaborone Central, Gaborone North, Mogoditshane, Tswapong North, Francistown West, Tati West, and Nata Gweta are all contested by both BCP and AP. This is because the other 50 constituencies were allocated by December of last year.

The three parties have failed to find common ground for the Bosele Ward by-elections. Are these constituencies not a deal breaker for the talks? “None of the constituencies is a deal breaker,” responded a very calm BCP official.

In Bosele Ward, AP has yielded to BCP, despite most of its members disapproving the decision. On the other hand, BLP has refused, and it will face off with BCP together with Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

The decision by BLP to face off with BCP has been labelled as a false start for the talks by political observers.

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Botswana approves extradition of British fugitive

21st March 2023

Raiz Ahmed Tayub, a British fugitive sought by Interpol for his involvement in human trafficking and slave trade crimes, was captured by the Botswana Police Service (BPS) earlier this year.

Merapelo Mokgosi, the Assistant Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), confirmed that he will be extradited to France, where he is wanted for his crimes.

“It is true that Tayub will be extradited to France, where he has been wanted for some time,” says Mokgosi.

She explained that the fugitive was arrested by the Botswana Police in early January while attempting to enter Botswana through the Pioneer border gate. Since his arrest, he has been appearing before the Lobatse Magistrate Court to fight his release from custody and to object to his extradition to France. During his court appearance, Tayub opted for voluntary extradition.

“He opted for voluntary extradition, which the extradition Act allows,” said Mokgosi. She added that the suspect was not under duress when he chose voluntary extradition. Soon after he made this choice, the Ministry of Justice was notified, and the minister approved his extradition. Preparations are still underway to fly the wanted man to France, and once the necessary paperwork is completed between the two nations, the suspect will be extradited.

Mokgosi indicated that plans were still being made to complete the suspect’s extradition to France, and the Botswana government would pay for his flight along with his escort.

Meanwhile, the court has ordered the Botswana Prison Services (BPS) to provide the Islamic British fugitive with “halal food” while he is in custody.

In an earlier court application, Tayub had asked to be detained at a five-star hotel, as he could pay for it until the completion of his case. He also argued that he should not have to wear a prison uniform due to the Covid-19 outbreak. He was thought to have been traveling to Malawi at the time of his capture.

When delivering the order, the principal magistrate, Gofaone Morwang, said the detainee should be provided with halal daily rations with immediate effect while he is in custody. The magistrate dismissed TAYUB’s application for hotel detention and exemption from wearing a prison uniform.

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Botswana approves extradition of British fugitive

20th March 2023

Raiz Ahmed Tayub, a British fugitive sought by Interpol for his involvement in human trafficking and slave trade crimes, was captured by the Botswana Police Service (BPS) earlier this year.

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