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Calls for Robertson wines to be banned from RMB WineX festival

Earlier this week, Denmark's biggest supermarket chains pulled South African wines off its shelves.

Picture: robertsonwinery.co.za.

JOHANNESBURG - Community advocacy group Amandla.mobi is calling on organisers the WineX Festival to remove the Robertson Winery from its list of exhibitors this week amid a wage dispute with workers.

There's been a public backlash against Robertson after claims that workers are earning R3,000.

Earlier this week, Denmark's biggest supermarket chains pulled South African wines off its shelves, including products from the winery, after a documentary was aired exposing what it is believed to be a violation of labour laws in the industry.

Amandla.mobi's Koketso Moeti says allowing Robertson winery to display its products at the Rand Merchant Bank WineX festival is a slap in the face.

"RMB Holdings, which is the main sponsor of this event, has signed a pledge that supports social justice in this country. Tomorrow will mark the ninth week since workers at Robertson Winery have been striking for a living wage. It is unthinkable that they are giving a platform to a winery that is currently known to be exploiting its workers."

Moeti has criticised cooperate South Africa's response to the plight of farm workers.

"The fact that international companies are willing to pull these products from their shelves but in South Africa, where workers are being publicly exploited, we have seen a difference in response where they are happy to continue supporting. It's telling of the duplicity for our corporates."

While the advocacy group has called for a complete boycott of Robertson, festival director Michael Fridjhon says this is not an appropriate response.

"I have investigated the situation at Robertson and as far as I can see the existing wage structure is what is called a living wage in South Africa and quite frankly I think it is low. But it's not by any means below the ethically stated level that is required."

Fridjhon says consumers should do everything they can to improve the sector.

"The fact of the matter is that 50 percent of all South African red wines and 56 percent of all South African white wines retail at R40 a bottle or less. The people who buy the wine are buying them in some away at the price of human misery and it's up to wine consumers in this country not to support the principal of discount wine if they want to object to what workers earn. You can't have it both ways."

He adds, "I think that South Africans really need to make more demands on producers in terms of transparency about what workers earn at every level of the wine industry."

The WineX Festival is scheduled to start in Sandton, tomorrow.

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