Friday, January 28, 2011


Towards the end of 2009, The TATIB Foundation received a large number of complaints, from residents of Stellenbosch, alleging that they had been exposed to spray drift as a result of spraying practices on vineyards owned and managed by the University of Stellenbosch.

TATIB investigated and found two “problem vineyards”, The STIAS Perold Vineyard in Jonkershoek and the Welgevallen Vineyard bordering Paul Roos School. Both these vineyards border on the residential area and it was to be noted that no buffer zones had been implemented between the vineyards and the residential areas, and that during spraying, in particular on Welgevallen, large clouds of spray drift would be blown into the surrounding streets and onto the playing fields of Paul Roos.

As a result of the complaints, and our own investigations,  TATIB approached the University of Stellenbosch.  Initially the University went on the “defensive” and in this regard insisted that TATIB address all correspondence to their attorneys.

All that we were asking for, was that the University of Stellenbosch obey the various laws that govern the use of agri-chemicals, and that they ensure that no spray drift was to leave the confines of their vineyards and be blown into the residential areas.

Realising that if we took the “litigation approach” the only real winners would be the attorneys, we decided to rather enter into ‘dialogue’ with the University and in this regard our Steering Committee met with Professor Mohammad Karaan, Dean Faculty of Agri Sciences, University of Stellenbosch on 08 March 2010.

An agreement was reached and it was proposed that the STIAS Vineyard Committee be established so as to look at alternatives to using toxic agri-chemicals (pesticides / funcidides / herbicides), using the STIAS experimental vineyard as a starting point.

More on the agreement can be found here :

The STIAS Vineyard committee consisted of  both University of Stellenbosch and TATIB members as follows :-

    CHAIRMAN :     

    Prof Mark Swilling : Sustainability Institute Stellenbosch


    Albert Strever                        : Viticulture
    Florian Bauer                         :  Enology
    Michael-John Freeborough    :  Faculty Manager Agri Sciences
    John Van Breda                     :  Programme manager TsamaHUB


    Jurgen Schirmacher                :  Chairman TATIB Foundation
    Ian Odendaal                         :  Founding Member
    Amanda Odendaal                 :  Founding Member
    Anneret Wolfaardt                 :  Member  - medical cluster

The STIAS Vineyard Committee had several meetings, during which it was established that the STIAS Perold Vineyard was in fact planted on a single residential erf and as such was in contravention of the zoning scheme regulations and therefore an “unlawful” vineyard.

Various documents, in support of this were lodged with the University of Stellenbosch and can be found at the links below :

Whilst the TATIB Foundation was in consultation with the University of Stellenbosch and active  on the STIAS Vineyard Committee, we were told that all matters discussed during the committee meetings would have to remain private and confidential at all times, which in effect meant that we would not be allowed to divulge any of the information to the press. The first meeting was “taped” without our prior knowledge and consent and our attempts to get a copy of the “tapes”  were rejected by the University. We reiterated our hopes that the meetings would be a platform for open and transparent discussion.

The University  undertook to place a “moratorium” on the use of all agrochemicals on the STIAS  Vineyard and to rather implement natural forms of pest control that did not require “chemical” intervention

See letter from University of Stellenbosch dated 25 August 2010 :

After careful consideration of the facts of the matter and the large volume of evidence and documentation submitted by TATIB, the STIAS Vineyard Committee, under chairmanship of Professor Mark Swilling, concluded that the STIAS Perold Vineyard was indeed in contravention of the zoning scheme regulations and that as a result of this it was an “illegal vineyard”.  The Committee made a recommendation that the vineyard be removed and transplanted to another location, or the erf in question be rezoned

See Report from Prof Mark Swilling sent to Professor Arnold Van Zyl (Vice-Rector : Research Universty of Stellenbosch :

A few weeks after the abovementioned report was submitted by Prof Mark Swilling, he suddenly resigned as chairman of the STIAS Vineyard Committee . We at TATIB felt that pressure had been placed on him, from higher up, to resign or face the consequences.

There was one final meeting of the STIAS Vineyard Committee in November 2010, at which Professor Arnold Van Zyl overturned the findings of the STIAS Vineyard Committee, dissolved the committee, lifted the  “moratorium” on the spraying and in effect dismissed TATIB as if we were a bunch of naughty school-children.

In our opinion there was clearly “political interference” in a process that really should have been open and transparent.  The unfortunate message that the University of Stellenbosch has sent out , is that they do not care if the vineyard is illegal, that they will continue to do as they please and in this regard continue to spray potentially hazardous chemicals in close proximity to the residential areas and schools, without any consideration for the heath and safety of the residents & students. 

We wonder what their “Donors”, for example the Wallenburg Foundation,  would think of this ?

The University should really have seen this as an opportunity to do the right thing whilst at the same time look at using only natural methods of pest control.  We understand that agro chemical giants like Bayer Crop Science do sponsor the University and that they may lose their sponsorship if they decide to go organic or bio-dynamic.   It must however be noted, that the STIAS Perold Vineyard was always meant to be an experimental vineyard that was cultivated according to organic / bio-dynamic principles, which it clearly is not.

Florian Bauer, at one of the STIAS Vineyard Committee meetings,  stated that the soil / ground on which the vineyard is planted, was tested prior to the establishment of the vineyard and was found to be sterile and totally unsuitable for vines. Independent agricultural experts confirmed, after inspections of the vineyard,  that its soil composition and location was not suitable for pinotage grapes, in fact unsuitable for any vineyard.  Perhaps the real experiment is how to grow vines on sterile ground, with maximum use of potentially toxic chemicals ?

Reputable sources have confirmed, that a lot of  pressure was placed on the University, by a handful of “elite” residents who still yield considerable political clout and that these residents were opposed to another parking lot or student residence and that this is where the idea of a vineyard originated.

Perhaps it’s the “dead wood”, those  “old cronies”opposed to change, who have sabotaged the progress of this very important issue ?

Shimla, in Die Burger of 27 January 2011 “Ons dorp, Skelmbos, laat sy kop sak”  commented as follows  :
“Dis n algemene verskynsel in SA dat bevoorregte mense onder die wanindruk verkeer, dat hulle persoonlike klein paradysies onaangeraak gaan bly. Dit is egter onmoontlik, en hoe gouer die besef deurdring, hoe beter. “

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