Rules, what rules? The butcher’s which ignores social distancing

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Impossible to safely enter

By John Fraser

Ok.  This is not the first time I have been told I was wrong, out-of-order, unwanted. 

Although I have followed virtually every ministerial briefing since the arrival of the pandemic and studied most of the statements on the virus, I apparently know nothing about social distancing.

For what little it seems to be worth, I favour the 2-metre exclusion zone, as that is close to my height, and it is therefore fairly easy to judge if I am too close to another human being.

However, if you closely study the photo of the entrance to the Kings Meat Deli at the Lynnbridge Mall in Pretoria, you are likely to conclude that it offers a quite narrow opening into the store.

The chap at the entrance with the sanitiser spray device was standing just to the side of the door when I arrived and initially rejected my request to stand aside so I could safely enter.  He offered a social distance of centimetres, not metres.

Eventually, reluctantly, he made a small step away from me and I nervously passed inside.   More fool me.

Once inside, I headed to vent my fears at the checkout, where the staff are normally kind and helpful, but I was intercepted by a burly, aggressive butch butcher, who I assume was a member of management.   He was not carrying a cleaver and so was probably undercover.

The idiot told me insistently there was no risk at the entrance of the store, and I stood no chance of infecting others or being infected when entering his shop – as I would be “moving” and you can not catch Covid-19 when you are moving.  I suspect he has a severe case of butcher’s block.

The fact that one needs to stand still to receive a droplet of disinfectant on the hands from the charmless greeter, and would, therefore, not be moving all the time did not seem to have occurred to him.    Even if his dismissal of the basic principles of social distancing were valid, he stuck to his guns, made me feel like the villain, and was as welcoming as a tarantula who has invited a fly to dinner.

He then forcefully and unpleasantly asked me whether I planned to purchase anything -as if I normally risk life and limb to wander around displays of bits of dead animals for no reason.

When he had succeeded in making me feel very nervous and very, very unwelcome, I flung down my shopping basket and stormed out.

It may not surprise you that I will never again return to that store after the arrogant, ignorant and threatening way in which I was treated.  Which is a pity.  Their butchery is far superior to their manners.

However, we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic – and while this butcher’s shop is used to dealing with dead creatures, I have no wish to be counted among them.

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Steps towards a Smarter Lockdown: Game Lodges

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Time for a drink

By Greg Mills and Ray Hartley

A ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ is an apt description for the current lockdown regime, yet there are ways out of this increasingly costly mess. This is what can be done to save tourism.

Africa’s game lodge and viewing industry has been badly hit by the Covid-19 lockdown, with the prohibition on foreign and domestic leisure travel. Can something be done to save this industry – a vital part of the country’s tourism trade – and return it to contributing to the economy?

Wesgro – the Western Cape’s agency to promote economic growth – has helped to compile a report with the Game Lodge Industry Group on what can be done to save it right now: the safe and considered reopening of domestic tourism. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the tourism sector directly accounted for 2.8% of South Africa’s gross domestic product, or some R139 billion in 2018.

“Many of the lodges in South Africa face imminent closure due to COVID-19 restrictions” reads the report. “The immediate and safe opening of domestic leisure tourism could help sustain these businesses until our international borders are re-opened.“

The agency is hoping to redirect some R83,7 bn that is spent annually on international outbound tourism by South Africans to visiting local lodges for game viewing.

The report says the 496 private game lodges in South Africa:

• Employ some 19 700 people in total, of whom 16 600 are from local communities;

• Pay salaries to local employees amounting to R1,5 billion a year;

• Spend R1,2 billion annually on local procurement;

• Based on tourism job multipliers, sustain a total of almost 33 625 jobs in the local communities and areas in which they operate;

• Spend almost R789 million annually on conservation programmes, excluding concession fees; and

• Spend R190 million annually on community projects such as clinics and schools and SMME support.

The report argues that visiting local game lodges would be safe for domestic tourists, saying “inter- and intra-provincial domestic leisure travel for stays in game lodges and provincial and national parks can be enabled with low to no COVID-19 risks.”

This is because lodges can easily comply with standards for business operations during Covid-19.

“The lodge experience is largely outdoors and in the open-air, for dining, walking and observing game and open game vehicle drives. Adhering to the protocols, open vehicles will ensure unconnected individuals are not seated together.”

Domestic tourists would travel to lodges in private vehicles and lodges were small, averaging 13 rooms, usually spread out with guests spending time on their own patios or in their rooms.

With usually no more than 14 guests at a time, guest-to-guest contact can be minimised and would be much less risky than most other consumer-facing industries.

The game-lodge industry was involved in the development of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa’s (TBCSA) comprehensive health and safety protocols for all elements in the tourism value chain and will adhere to these protocols which have been reviewed by an epidemiologist, the National Department of Tourism (NDT) and the Department of Health (DoH) and have been accredited with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travels stamp.

Allowing domestic visits to lodges would help sustain this industry which is a vital cornerstone of the larger tourism industry with 45% of overseas visitors to South Africa enjoying wildlife experiences in 2018.

“Without the private reserve and safari lodge industry, there would be a vastly reduced offering to international tourists visiting South Africa for leisure tourism.”

“In addition, on average, each lodge spends R1,6 million rand annually on conservation and conservation education. Applied to the 496 lodges, this equates to R789 million spent on conservation by the lodges.”

A smarter lockdown is essential to the retention of jobs. Game-lodges are a good place to start with the tourism industry.

Hartley and Mills are with the Brenthurst Foundation which recently published ‘The Conservation Continent’.

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ZA lockdown lunacy. A podcast conversation on prohibition and other punishment

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Wonderful, wonderful Cape wine

By John Fraser

Normally, the ZA Confidential podcasts involve a tasting of wine or some other boozy delight.

However, following the second imposition of lockdown prohibition in South Africa, the focus has shifted.

Instead, our discussion was on the lockdown itself, and the heavy-handed treatment of long-suffering citizens by our pitiless politicians.

Joining me were IT wizard Malcolm MacDonald, analyst Chris Gilmour, economist Chris Hart and lavish-liver David Bullard.

Click below for a discussion tannie Zuma would not approve of…..

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SA restaurant madness. Booze still banned.

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We must dine without wine.

 

By John Fraser

Well, we can now eat and be merry in restaurants again, but with no booze.

The latest anti-alcohol blast from our nanny government came as a bit of a shock.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday night that restaurants could open again for sit-down meals, with safety measures.  What he didn’t seem to say in his speech was that no alcohol could be served.

Once again, the booze-hating fraction inside the Cabinet appears to have triumphed over the rest.

Now, I am no great expert on the finances of running a restaurant, although I have some dear friends who are in that profession, but I am pretty sure that it will be far more difficult to make a living if you not only have to restrict numbers to ensure safe distancing of clients – but on top of this, the financial loss of not selling booze will be a crushing blow.

And what about the customers?  I have endured no-alcohol meals in some Muslim-owned restaurants, including in some of the top restaurants when I visited Saudi Arabia.

It is not the same.  Trust me.

Fine dining, for me anyway, involves fine wine.  Or beer…  With a cheeky post-consumption shot of something to aid the digestion.

You eat and drink to be merry, and there is not much fun if you go out just to eat and sulk.

In any event, I understand that looming legislation will not allow the tiniest trace of alcohol when you are driving, further drying up the supply of customers for our restaurants.

Yes, there are the Ubers and others.   But that further adds to the cost of the experience.

All in all, the lifeline which the government seemed to offer to the restaurant trade….is more like a tightening noose.

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South African proposal to breed wildlife for slaughter courts disaster

The proposed Meat Safety Act will see more wild animals landing on dinner plates.
GettyImages

Chris Alden, London School of Economics and Political Science and Ross Harvey, University of Johannesburg

There are times of spectacular policy myopia – and promoting a revision to the Meat Safety Act by the South African government is surely one of these moments.

In late February the government proposed adding over 90 local and non-indigenous species to the list of animals regulated under the Meat Safety Act. Prior to this the act allowed for the commercial slaughter of 35 “domesticated animals” and “wild game” species.

The list of 90 included rhinoceros, hippopotamus and giraffe, as well as “all other species of animals not mentioned above, including birds, fish and reptiles that may be slaughtered as food for human and animal consumption”.

The bill is currently being circulated for comment.

The purpose of the Meat Safety Act is to provide measures to promote meat safety and the safety of animal products for human and animal consumption. The effect of the proposed amendment is to make the whole act applicable to any animal to be slaughtered.

It appears that at least part of the reason for these amendments is to regulate the slaughter of captive-bred lions, whose bones are exported in growing quantities to Asian markets.

If passed in its present form the act opens up the possibility of massive consumption of wildlife. How? By inadvertently driving up the demand for bushmeat through legitimising the consumption of protected wild animals.

A growing conservation concern

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the dangers of the transmission of viruses from wildlife to humans. The same pattern of infectious disease “species jumping” was implicated in the origin and spread of COVID-19, Ebola and SARS.

This zoonotic spillover risk is strongest in “wet markets”, where live animals, fish and birds are butchered and sold to consumers on-site (as well as products like skins, scales and horns). A systematic review in 2007 concluded that:

The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.

Bushmeat consumption across the continent is already a daunting conservation problem. Bushmeat increasingly serves as a supplement to protein from other sources such as cattle, chickens, goats and sheep.




Read more:
Banning bushmeat could make it harder to stop future pandemics


Our fear is that the change in the law could lead to more wet markets being established in South Africa. While the amendments increase regulatory control, it’s not clear that the government will have the capacity to enforce them. More likely is the risk of realising unintended consequences.

Individuals and small businesses are likely to see this as an opportunity to enter a sector where start-up costs are minimal, sanitary standards difficult to enforce and oversight non-existent.

Trade in small markets already exists in South Africa, which double as markets for traditional medicine in some instances. One study of the Faraday Market in Johannesburg revealed that at least 147 identified vertebrates were being traded for both bushmeat and traditional medicine.

Preserving scarce wildlife

Putting African wildlife on the menu for mass consumption holds implications that are important for our relationship with the wild and environment. It reduces wild animals to mere consumables.

Remember that these amendments come in the wake of 32 wild animal species having recently been included in changes to the Animal Improvement Act, essentially relegating them to mere agricultural products.




Read more:
What is the wildlife trade? And what are the answers to managing it?


What is being put forward by government signals that it is open season on the country’s national heritage and authorises a great expansion of the legal procurement of wild animals for sale.

As has been demonstrated time and time again, the formal legalisation of wildlife trade provides both a cover and an incentive for the illegal trade in wildlife and its products.

For example, the trade in perlemoen, or abalone, has been legal for generations and harvested on a sustainable basis. However, once permits were issued to unscrupulous front companies from Asia, the systematic stripping of the coast commenced with exports packed and sent out of the Cape and Johannesburg all under the legal guise of a legitimate business.




Read more:
First steps to tackling South Africa’s abalone poaching


A significant portion of perlemoen has disappeared from coastal shores, depriving South Africans of employment, valued-add production (such as canning, now performed in Asian countries) and enjoyment of a national resource.

Attempts to protect the species through listing on Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendixes have been thwarted by pressure from a fishing industry subject to corruption.

Defeating public health and conservation objectives

Promoting the consumption of wildlife in South Africa will only intensify the commodification of the country’s natural heritage. And it will potentially create zoonotic spillover health risks for humans as well as from wild animals like wildebeest to domesticated animals such as cattle.

We cannot continue to treat our delicate ecological systems as free capital. They are the vital life support systems without which nothing and no one can survive.The Conversation

Chris Alden, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science and Ross Harvey, Director of Research and Programmes, Good Governance Africa, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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SA wine tasting podcast: Rickety Bridge The Printers’ Devil Belphegor 2017

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A lovely Cape red

Happier days are here again, now that the lockdown in SA has eased, and we can once more purchase booze.

This podcast was recorded before the lockdown, and now it is lifted, we must rally to support the formidable wine industry in the Cape, which brings so much pleasure, whatever nonsense some in government may spout about the devil’s brew.

For our latest podcast, Michael Olivier introduced a lovely Cape red:  Rickety Bridge; The Printers’ Devil Belphegor 2017.

Guest tasters were old favourites: brander Jeremy Sampson, analyst Chris Gilmour and IT expert Malcolm Macdonald.

There was also a useful discussion on the delights – and perils – of ordering wine by the glass.

Click below to enjoy the podcast:

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South Africa’s lockdown: a great start, but then a misreading of how society works

The ban on the sale of alcohol has been partially lifted, but tobacco remains prohibited.
Roger Sedres/Gallo Images via Getty Images

By Steven Friedman, University of Johannesburg

South Africa’s government is proud that its response to Covid-19 relies on science. It might be prouder if it was also guided by knowledge of how society works.

When South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown began on 27 March, opposition from some quarters was inevitable. What was not expected was that the most vehement resistance would be aimed at a ban on selling tobacco products. Only around 1 in 5 South Africans smoke and previous government limits on smoking were not controversial.

The ban generated such heat because, when the government began relaxing the lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that tobacco sales would be allowed. Then, at the apparent prompting of the minister responsible for lockdown rules, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the decision was reversed; the ban is still in force.

Dlamini-Zuma has an unfortunate tendency to lecture rather than persuade and her role seems to have turned muttered resentment among some into loud anger, directed not only at the tobacco ban but the entire lockdown.

And, since the loudest opposition has come from white suburbanites, it has revived the familiar conservative argument that a “nanny state” is telling citizens that it knows more about what is good for them than they do.

This complaint says more about the prejudices of those who make it than reality.




Read more:
Lockdown is riling black and white South Africans: could this be a reset moment?


All governments restrict citizens to protect their health and safety: this is why we have traffic lights. And all democracies allow governments to restrict freedoms to protect citizens in an emergency – by, for example, cordoning off areas hit by fire and flood.

The “nanny state” argument expresses a belief that some of us should not be told what to do by those they consider their inferiors.

But this does not mean health measures will be obeyed. It is here that knowledge of society is important.

Erosion of legitimacy

Addictive substances harm health. But knowledge of how humans act in society tells us that, precisely because they are addictive. They can be regulated but banning them never works since addicts find other ways to feed their addiction.

Besides the oft-quoted failure of American prohibition, when white governments in South Africa banned black people from consuming “European liquor”, this created shebeens (speakeasies) which remain a feature.

South Africa’s bans on cigarette and alcohol sales prompted an illicit cigarette trade, the looting of liquor stores and a sharp rise in the price of pineapples which were used to ferment beer.

Dlamini-Zuma’s belief that the ban will prompt “a sizeable number” of people to give up smoking is contradicted by knowledge of society.

This knowledge also tells us that, even among the vast majority who are not addicts, restrictions will fail if they lack legitimacy: people may not like obeying them, but, if they accept they are there for a good reason, they will comply. If they don’t, even thousands of troops will not get them to obey.




Read more:
Pandemics don’t heal divisions — they reveal them. South Africa is a case in point


South Africa’s lockdown rules started with high legitimacy. But it has been eroded and has now dissolved.

The country locked down early, when cases and deaths were relatively few. This creates a legitimacy problem: people must sacrifice yet they do not see the fatalities and overloaded hospitals which influenced citizens of some European countries. But this problem was largely solved because citizens knew – and feared – what was happening elsewhere.

Legitimacy could have remained high if, like some other countries, South Africa’s had done what early lockdowns are meant to do – cut infections and deaths to a handful.

Cooperative Governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Luiz Rampelotto/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

But this was never an option because the scientists who advise the government insisted that restrictions were not meant to stop the virus transmitting, merely to slow it down so that, when the “inevitable” surge arrived, the health system was ready.
They have not been challenged to defend this view because the debate never asks scientists difficult questions. An illustrative example is the claim (which she later clarified) by Professor Glenda Gray, chair of the country’s Medical Research Council, that Soweto’s Baragwanath hospital had no malnutrition cases before the lockdown. But it has created a legitimacy nightmare.

By Ramaphosa’s own admission, South Africa did not use its lockdown to establish the testing and tracing capacity which allowed some countries to beat back Covid-19. But, outside Western Cape Province, it restricted cases to about 11 000 and under 200 deaths by the end of May, figures similar to South Korea’s successful fight against the virus. Even in the Western Cape, there are a few hundred deaths, not the thousands seen elsewhere in the world.

So, the lockdown has been effective enough to ensure that its opponents can demand an end to restrictions without seeming callous. But it has not been effective enough to ensure the drop in infections and deaths which the World Health Organisation – and, initially, the chair of the government’s own medical advisory council – say are needed to phase out restrictions.




Read more:
Coronavirus: corruption in health care could get in the way of Nigeria’s response


The legitimacy which comes from victory over the virus is not available and the official insistence that the restrictions are not meant to stop transmission has handed opponents a good reason to demand that they end even when infections are rising.

Legitimacy has not been eroded among most citizens, who remain deeply concerned about Covid-19. But it has been weakened sufficiently in the policy debate to create an orgy of interest group lobbying for an end to restrictions.

Business began pressing for freedom to operate and has largely succeeded. This set off a chain reaction in which, once one lobby wins, the others smell blood and demand that they too be free to operate.

This lobbying has replaced the veneer of science shrouding government decisions: concessions seem based purely on who shouts loudest. Domestic business travel is allowed, which may allow the virus to spread; religious services are opened although they have been prime spreaders of the virus everywhere; the government has tried to open schools although nearly 2 000 Covid-19 cases are below age 19. Only the tobacco ban remains.

What’s been missing

But the legitimacy of measures to fight Covid-19 is more important than ever because the only chance of curbing it is strict observance by businesses and other institutions of health measures.

The government is reduced to doing what it always does when it loses control – telling citizens they must look after themselves. Because people are worried by Covid-19, those who have access to trade unions or other forms of influence may do that. But, if the virus’s spread is stopped, it will be because people fear it, not because they believe that government measures are legitimate.

This might have been avoided if the government paid as much attention to a knowledge of society as it says it is paying to science.The Conversation

Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Ventilators to breathe new life into SA industry

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A breath of fresh air from Minister Ebrahim Patel

By John Fraser

When the C19 virus first flew into SA, we had no industry producing medical ventilators.   Trade Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel says we will soon be making 20 000 a month. 

Although he declined to name them in a media briefing, Friday, he said that three local producers have been chosen, following an extensive selection process, which involved ensuring that the devices can be used as safely as imported units.

“Production is starting in June,”  he said.   “And we will reach 20 000 by August if all goes well.

“SA’s National Ventilator Project was launched in April, when we found the global market was depleted and prices were rising.”

Patel said there was a really strong outpouring of support from car component manufacturers, appliance manufacturers, as well as innovators and science councils.

As well as meeting high standards, the ventilators must be flexible for use in field hospitals, as well, and must be affordable.

“Normally it takes 3 years to ramp up,” said Patel.  “We seek to reduce it to 3 months, with full-on production in July.”

The Solidarity Fund has been used to buy masks and has also provided seed funding for the ventilator initiative.    It is looking, with other funders, to make a purchase order to the order of 20 000 units.

The Treasury is being asked to fund additional purchases – and the aim is for the manufacturers to permanently stay in business and to start to export.

“As the disease ramps up, we are looking at producing more ventilators,” said Patel, suggesting this presents a big manufacturing opportunity.

Meanwhile, the local manufacturing sector has been producing high-quality medical masks.

Some 25m will have been made in May.  By the end of June, the output will jump to 1m a day.

Ford is producing face shields – supplied free of charge to the public sector.

Sasol is devoting its entire ethanol production for hand sanitiser, which is also being produced by some of the larger alcohol producers.

Patel said SA is already supplying PPE to neighbouring countries and rest of the Continent, and this will grow.

“We must ensure the infection does not spread across the region, and we need to show social solidarity,” he said.

“Africa must have the capacity to produce, and must never again be subjected to the shortages we have seen.    Already, 150m litres of sanitiser has been exported from SA to elsewhere in the Continent. ”

Millions of face masks have also been sent to health-care workers in neighbouring countries.

This export drive presents a big future opportunity for SA firms, which will be entrenched once the African Continental Free Trade Area is implemented.   It is delayed by the C19 virus, but efforts are underway to set a new launch date.

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Give me a supermarket trolley with flame throwers, please

Flame
My version of social distancing

By John Fraser

I have written before about the ignorant morons – staff and customers – who infest the supermarkets in which I shop during this 21st Century version of the Black Death.

There is normally sanitiser available for hands and trolley handles, but social distancing? Near impossible.

Today I stormed out of my local branch of Pick ‘n Pay – or should that be Pick ‘n Plague? I did try, using my trolley as a barrier, avoiding busy aisles, waiting patiently while people set up tent in just the area from which I needed to pluck my gourmet-select bread and gruel.

Boy, was I funny?  People found it so amusing that someone wished to keep himself – and them – as safe as possible.

Eventually, the crowding in the aisles, the total ignorance and indifference to social distancing, drove me out.

I left my trolley in situ, and left. Situ ain’t safe.

On instead to my local Spar. A more spacious store, but still full of people who wished to infect me. Soon after I entered, one staff member approached me and I held out an arm to indicate she should keep her distance. Oh, no. She gave me a friendly fist punch, making skin-to-skin contact, potentially infecting me with the killer virus.

A complaint to the manager secured an apology, and I took another dose of sanitiser. Maybe Trump’s idea of drinking bleach isn’t so stupid, after all. It’s probably safer than entering a South African supermarket

Before heading out to shop, I had watched our Trade, Industry and Competition Czar Ebrahim Patel informing MPs that infections among supermarket workers are 10 times the norm.

If the general population were to reach that scale of infection, it would overwhelm our country’s pathetically inadequate healthcare system (my definition, not Patel’s).

To conclude this brief, – but heartfelt – rant, I had to act like a grumpy, loudmouthed shit to keep myself safe.

The public – black, white, yellow, green and silver – doesn’t seem to understand the risk, and stores do not seem to be getting the message to their workers. 

Who are already more at risk, even without their stupid behaviour.

So I am opening up a tender for a supermarket trolly, armed with a battery of flame throwers.

It may sound cruel to burn others to a crisp as I meander along supermarket aisles, but it is not as if these morons would not kill themselves before long.

Be warned.

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Wine tasting podcast. Bonnievale Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

bonnievale

By John Fraser

I despise the current prohibition imposed by the Soviet-inspired Command Council in South Africa.   This podcast is not intended to annoy those of us who are fast running out of booze, and are prohibited from buying any more.

Our intention, instead, is to serve as a reminder of a time when a group of chums could get together and relish a few glasses of the red stuff.

Michael Olivier, sommelier to the stars, poured out the Bonnievale Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 to a receptive bunch.

Guest tasters were analyst Chris Gilmour, brander Jeremy Sampson, and technical supremo Malcolm MacDonald.

We also chatted about the merits of online purchasing, a pleasure allowed in SA at the moment unless you want to buy booze and ciggies.

Click below for a brief return to civilisation.

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Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za