Business legend Whitey Basson

Image by Vinotecarium from Pixabay

Business legend Whitey Basson joins wine industry in its fight

Former top retail industry executive is supporting the wine sector as it prepares for court battle against Dlamini-Zuma.

Business legend Whitey Basson

Image by Vinotecarium from Pixabay

The beleaguered South African wine industry has called in one of the country’s biggest business guns to help in its fight against the ban on alcohol sales.

Whitey Basson, a legendary business figure and for years the driving force behind the success of the Shoprite group, has signed an affidavit in support of the court case being brought by the Southern African Agri Initiative (known as Saai) to lift the ban.

The case is scheduled to go to court on August 18 and is being brought by 120 wine farms against minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Industry welcomes Basson into the fold

Basson, now retired but producing a small quantity of his own wine for the table, has been welcomed into the fold by the wine industry as it seeks to convince government that enormous and possibly irreversible damage is being done to the sector.

“The alcohol industry has some big guns in its arsenal as it gears up for a war with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – but its star witness in the case … will surely be the country’s highest-rated retailer,” observed Rob Rose, Editor of the Financial Mail.

Schalk Burger, Proprietor of Welbedacht Wine Estate in Wellington, tweeted his welcome: “Welcome to our team Dr Whitey Basson, now in action against the wine ban #NoWineNoSunshine.” The tweet immediately drew a large number of positive comments and likes.

Government not sharing its reasoning

In an interview with Talk Radio 702, Basson said he agreed with many of the government’s actions in dealing with the pandemic and the reopening of the economy.

However, he was concerned about the insistence on the alcohol ban continuing.

“What I don’t agree with is that when someone gets figures and facts put to them, that it can’t be shared with us what is the cause of the decision that the government takes,” Basson said.

“Being a country with a culture of disagreeing, we can appoint a person who is neutral to the argument, like a judge, to ask who is right and who is wrong.”  

Industry must have timelines to enable planning

He believed it was not appropriate to say that the ban would be lifted at some point, but not provide a timeframe.

“You can’t lift the ban on Monday and expect people to be selling in two weeks’ time. There is too little time for people to make rational decisions, and if we don’t make rational decisions now, it is going to get substantially worse,” he explained.

Recently wine expert Michael Fridjohn predicted that up to 90% of South Africa’s wine producers may not survive the next five years.