Woman’s Month – Margaret Newman

If there is to be a doyenne of the South African wine industry, Margaret Newman is it. The sprightly 90-year-old’s life is a veritable reflection of the metamorphosis of the sector, as it is of the challenges faced by women in general, and women of colour in particular. Her parents and siblings played a leading role in the local Holy Trinity Anglican Church, school and the wider Paarl community. “I am a woman of great faith,” says Margaret, ascribing her peaceful, cheerful demeanour to her longevity. Living alone in her lovely garden cottage in a Cape Town suburb, she is proudly independent. “I drive, cook, clean, scrub, even sweep the street outside my home,” says the impeccably mannered nonagenarian.

Eschewing the culture of entitlement that has become commonplace in contemporary society, she adds, “I don’t wait for government to do things for me. I have two hands and two feet, and am quite capable of looking after myself.” A statement that is telling of her life’s journey and her ability to raise herself by her own bootstraps through dint of hard work, creativity and perseverance. Born into a large family in Die Ou Tuin in Paarl, the young Margaret was particularly keen on ballet and recalls with fondness her solit train trips into Cape Town at the age of 12 to attend dance class. “My Mom gave me instructions of how to get to the station and the number of stations I will have to pass before getting to Cape Town, which she said was the final destination and where I should get off.” It is perhaps this lesson in fearless independence learnt at a tender age that was to shape the rest of her life’s journey. The highlight of her dance career was performing for Queen Elizabeth II, on her visit to Cape Town, sharing the stage with the celebrated Johaar Mosaval, the District Six-born dancer who went on to become Senior Principal Dancer of the Royal Dance Academy.

Margaret went on to obtain her junior certificate, followed by a teaching diploma and commenced her working life as a teacher at the age of 17. “I taught arithmetic, geography, history and physical training in a career spanning 10 years,” she recalls. She left teaching and married a
medical practitioner, and at odd times assisted in the surgery while raising three children. However, this union was to be ended after a decade and Margaret retained custody and the family home, but had to fend for herself and her young family financially single-handedly. Hoping to
return to teaching, and with changes to the curricula, she enrolled for further studies and was fondly called “Mother” by her classmates, who were half her age. A year-long stint at Athlone High in Cape Town was however to be ended with her entrée into the wine industry.

She approached Godfrey de Bruyn, whom she knew through her other community activities, for a position at the Ko-operatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging or KWV, to play a role in wine education and uplifting the community. As a result, she was offered a position as senior information officer, which she took up after two years due to completing her teaching commitment. a role into which she grew and flourished. Not daunted by the all-white, male leadership of the company she flourished and introduced many innovations to the practice of wine tasting, including cooking with wine demonstrations, and host and hostess evenings. She also hosted the first wine tasting in Soweto in 1975 and recalls how she was instructed not to serve premium wines. She disputed the reason for the change, and continued with the wine tasting as before which was accompanied by a three-course meal. As this was first for the company, two executive managers joined to experience the event first-hand.

At KWV she spearheaded many community-based projects, the pinnacle of which was the annual Tennis Coaching Clinics and regular art workshops for children from Coloured primary schools in the winelands. A seven-year stint at KWV, where she introduced a host of other functions, and implemented what was the first food and wine festival which she managed successfully for three consecutive years, was to be ended with an offer from Stellenbosch Farmers Winery (SFW), or Distell as it is currently known. Despite being warned that she is moving from an Afrikaner bastion to that which was deemed English stronghold, she nevertheless took the plunge, and joined SFW as Assistant Consumer Marketing Manager in 1979.

Initially recruited to train 54 national wine advisors in a new initiative, Margaret was to rise up the corporate vine where she was seconded to the export department as the International Client Coordinator to take charge of the foreign guests attending the much-vaunted annual Nederburg
Auction for three successive years. However, her steady rise through the company was not be unencumbered by the envious eyes of her white colleagues. With a company car and travelling internationally often, the final straw came with her first-class trip on board the Astor cruise liner to Southampton. Here she innovatively introduced wine tasting courses for the passengers on board.

After having spent six years in that position, she was brought to book on spurious allegations. Disappointed by the betrayal of trust in her and her abilities, Margaret opted to resign, thus ending a trail-blazing career in the industry. From here she was to join Old Mutual and market their products. “I recall that almost always in those days, decisions around insurance policies were left to the male-counterpart in the household. I decided to change that perception, and implemented a strategy aimed at women, as well as on joint consultations, and marketed the very lucrative unit trust products to good effect.” It was from this role that she went into retirement where she continued her life passion of community involvement, especially focused on the elderly. “I love people and sometimes drive out to meet elderly people and inspire them with my message that they should never own their ailments. By owning an ache or pain, you become it.” Today, she lives a charmed life tending to her garden, writing poetry and her memoirs. Undaunted today, as she was as a fearless 12-year-old boarding a train alone, may her joie de vivre spring eternal, for herself and as an inspiration to those that follow.

– Nirode Bramdaw, African Sun Media

Tshililo Ronald Ramabulana appointed Chairperson

Tshililo Ronald Ramabulana brings a wealth of experience to Chair the South African Wine Industry Transformation Unit Board

The South African Wine Industry Transformation NPC (SAWITU) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Tshililo Ronald Ramabulana as Board Chair with immediate effect. Mr. Ramabulana brings to the position more than 2 decades of expertise in the agricultural sector.

With a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics, Ramabulana previously served as CEO of the National Agricultural Marketing Council, in which capacity he worked closely with the Ministry on aspects including marketing, exports, competitiveness and transformation. In this capacity he was instrumental in setting up various industry-related organisations.

He is currently the CEO of a subtropical fruit and vegetables drying company based in the Limpopo Province. He also serves on numerous sector specific boards, and chairs the Onderstepoort Biological Products Limited and Hortfin Boards. He also serves on the Boards of Citrus Growers Development Company, Terrasan Group and Montagu Droogbane (Pty) Ltd.

“I am humbled at the opportunity to Chair this dynamic and diverse Board at this juncture, where I can pursue my passion for both agriculture and transformation. Especially during these challenging times, the call of the hour for SAWITU has become increasingly acute. We have our work cut out for us,” said Ramabulana.

In welcoming Ramabulana to the position, the SAWITU’s Transformation Operations Manager Wendy Petersen said, “We are excited at working with Mr Ramabulana in the pursuit of our objectives. Aside from his very valuable knowledge and experience of the agricultural sector and of the transformation landscape, he also brings to the Board his expertise in governance and the regulatory framework.”

Outgoing Chair of the SA Wine Industry Transformation Unit Board, Joyene Isaacs added, “We are delighted that Mr. Ramabulana will now head up the Board, and are confident that he will further our objectives vigorously, inheriting as he has, a well-run, well-governed industry organisation.”

As an independent Chairperson, Ramabulana will be responsible for managing the various stakeholder representatives that comprise the Board and working toward a combined objective


Tshililo Ronald Ramabulana bring as Voorsitter ’n magdom kennis na die Raad van die South African Wine Industry Transformation Unit

Die South African Wine Industry Transformation Unit NPC (SAWITU) kondig graag aan dat mnr. Tshililo Ronald Ramabulana met onmiddellike ingang as Raadsvoorsitter aangestel is. Mnr. Ramabulana dra sy kundigheid van meer as 2 dekades in die landboukundige sektor tot die posisie by.

Met ’n meestersgraad in Agri-besigheidsbestuur, was Ramabulana voorheen Hoof Uitvoerende Beampte van die National Agricultural Marketing Council. In hierdie rol was hy, in noue samewerking met die Ministerie, betrokke by verskeie aspekte wat bemarking, uitvoere, mededingendheid en transformasie ingesluit het. Hy het in hierdie hoedanigheid deel gehad aan die totstandkoming van verskeie organisasies wat met die industrie verband hou.

Tans is hy die Hoof Uitvoerende Beampte van ’n subtropiese vrugte- en groentedrogingsmaatskappy wat in Limpopo gestasioneer is. Hy dien ook op verskeie rade in die sektor, en is Raadsvoorsitter van Onderstepoort Biological Products SOC Ltd en Hortfin. Voorts dien hy op die rade van CGA Growers Development Company, TerraSan Group en Montagu Droogbane (Pty) Ltd.

“Ek voel oorweldig deur die geleentheid om op dié tydstip as Voorsitter van so ’n dinamiese en diverse Raad te dien waar ek my passie vir beide landbou en transformasie kan uitleef. Veral In hierdie uitdagende tyd word die beroep wat op SAWITU gedoen word al dringender. Ons het ’n belangrike taak voor ons,” sê Ramabulana.

Met Ramabulana se verwelkoming, het SAWITU se Transformasie Bedryfsbestuurder, Wendy Petersen, gesê: “Ons is opgewonde om saam met mnr. Ramabulana te kan werk om ons doelwitte na te streef. Afgesien van sy uiters waardevolle kennis en ondervinding in the landbousektor en op transformasiegebied, bring hy ook sy kundigheid in bestuur en die regulatoriese raamwerk saam met hom.”

Die uitgaande Voorsitter van die Raad van die SA Wine Industry Transformation Unit, Joyene Isaacs, het bygevoeg: “Ons is verheug dat mnr. Ramabulana nou die Raad gaan lei, en is vol vertroue dat hy ons doelwitte naarstiglik gaan bevorder deur middel van ’n organisasie in ’n industrie wat goed bedryf en bestuur word.”

As onafhanklike Voorsitter, sal Ramabulana daarvoor verantwoordelik wees om die verteenwoordigers van die onderskeie belangegroepe waaruit die Raad saamgestel is, te bestuur en ’n gesamentlike doelwit na te streef.