Monthly Archives: September 2016

We Still Weep for Our Rhino

There are some wars we may never win. Despite all the rhetoric and the successful assassination of Saddam Hussein, the threat of terror remains.   There may be frequent victories, some of which may never be reported, but from time to time the terrorists will succeed and another atrocity will be committed.

The war against rhino poachers is another example of a seemingly fruitless campaign.   Stats released at the weekend show that in the period from January to August this year. 458 poached rhino carcasses were found in the Kruger Park, a fall from the 557 in the same period last year. Environment Minister Edna Molewa said she was “pleased…that poaching is on the decline in the Kruger National Park….”

Yes, minister, the number is down.   But almost two rhino a day being taken out by poachers?

Heaven knows how much money and effort is being deployed to combat poaching, but it clearly hasn’t resolved the problem.   The word ‘poaching’ is a fairly tame one, when you consider what is happening. Maybe ‘butchery’ would better convey the savagery of this criminal slaughter? And, of course, those rhino outside the Kruger Park are also at risk. As the minister admitted “the number of rhino poached has increased in a number of other provinces in comparison to the same period in 2015, such as Kwa-Zulu Natal, Free State and the Northern Cape.”

And the poaching of elephant is also on the rise.

The Minister had been due to give a News Conference to announce the latest poaching stats, but this was cancelled. Apparently she has been too busy preparing for the COP17 CITES conference which is being held in Sandton later this month. Which is a shame.

The current levels of rhino poaching are a national disgrace, even though there has been some progress in scaling down the criminal cull in the Kruger Park.

And while we all look forward to positive discussion and progress at the CITES talk-shop, actions speak louder than words.

The rate of rhino massacres remains a national disgrace, and while the Minister may be pleased with recent progress, we remain deeply horrified and appalled.

Must try harder.


Tweet of the Day: Environmentza (@environmentza):   Minister #EdnaMolewa: We cannot celebrate as yet. We need to work harder and harder to deal with rhino poaching


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Tweet of the Day: Environmentza (@environmentza):   Minister #EdnaMolewa: We cannot celebrate as yet. We need to work harder and harder to deal with rhino poaching


ZA Confidential is a subscription newsletter.   To join the elite, to invite us to events with edible food and drinkable wine, for sponsorship discussions or any other communication, please contact:    

Follow us on twitter: @zaconfidential @dievinein @clasfras1    

Die Vine Intervention: Boschendal Sommelier Selection Chenin Blanc and Pinotage

Michael Olivier, who needs no introduction and won’t get one, presents a pair of wines from Boschendal’s Sommelier Selection – the Chenin Blanc and Pinotage.

John Fraser keeps order in the Johannesburg studio with terrific tasters Jeremy Sampson, Mike Schussler and Malcom MacDonald.

Click on the podcast:  

Die Vine Intervention: Joostenberg Chenin Blanc and Syrah

Wine wizard Michael Olivier presents a pair from Joostenberg to our tasting panel.  These are the Agteros Chenin Blanc 2015 and Klippe Kou Syrah 2013.  There is also a discussion on how to educate yourself on wines – where to get advice, information and a few tasting samples.

The tasting panel are brazen brander Jeremy Sampson, superstar economist Mike Schussler and IT expert Malcolm MacDonald.

Check out the podcast:    

Die Vine Intervention: Eikendal Charisma

Another enjoyable Cape Red selected by wine expert Michael Olivier – the 2014 Eikendal Charisma.

Tasters joining John Fraser in Johannesburg are Gancho Mantchorov from Tersos, restaurateur Dino Fagas from Prosopa and Absa’s Chris Gilmour.

Check out the podcast:  

Die Vine Intervention: Delheim CB and Grand Reserve

The glugging gourmet Michael Olivier introduces a red and a white from Delheim to our tasting panel.

These are the Chenin Blanc and the Grand Reserve 2013.

John Fraser is joined in the Johannesburg studio by leading economist Mike Schussler, Malcolm MacDonald from Clientele and blended brander Jeremy Sampson.

Check out the podcast:   

Why I Won’t Stand for the Chinese National Anthem


There are some things I will not stand for, and the Chinese National Anthem is one.  I was delighted to be invited by the IDC to Coega for the release of their (rather worrying) financial results – and a sod-turning ceremony for a new R11bn vehicle plant being built by Chinese auto giant BAIC.

There was no shortage of sods at the sod turning – Minister Ebrahim Patel, dozens of Chinese officials and auto bods, a cluster of journalists and hundreds of other freeloaders.

There was even the sad sight of the former mayor of PE Danny Jordaan, whom I had assumed would be far too busy fighting sleaze and corruption in international football to be hanging around with sods.

There was far too much pomp at the ceremony, made even more tortuous by the non-simultaneous translation of almost everything between English and Chinese. And the cheek of the hosts to offer us non-alcoholic Shiraz grape juice with our lunch was only compounded by the media being called to a briefing before we had been served any dessert or coffee (mind you, given the quality of the other courses, this may have been a blessing in disguise).

Of course it is useful to have a big new investment at Coega, even though it would not have happened without the lure of government investment incentives and co-investment by the IDC. I just wonder whether the job-creation levels we will see can in any way match the scale which would be achieved by a similarly-sized investment in agriculture or tourism.   Actually, I don’t wonder. I know it wouldn’t.

But back to that anthems…..    I was happy to stand for the South African anthem, because I knew it did not imply affection for our President and his cabal of Guptarian tenderpreneurs.

But when I think of the way China disrespects human rights, and in particular has ensured through vile pressure on our authorities that the Dalai Lama is not allowed to visit our shores, I was not prepared to rise to my feet.

Besides, what the hell were they doing playing national anthems anyway?


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How I was Floored by a Nedbank Wine Tasting

Remember that hilarious clip of former finance minister Nene in a TV interview, disappearing from sight as his SABC chair collapsed from under him? Well I was a bit of a Nene at the Cape Winemakers’ Guild tutored tasting recently at Nedbank’s HQ in Jo’burg.


One second I was staring sagely into my glass, and the next I was flat on my back. Two legs of my Nedbank seat had broken off, and gravity took care of the rest.


Of course, neither Mr Nene nor I could be described as petite, and it would be tempting to argue that our chairs sensed defeat and gave up the ghost.


But within minutes of my fall from grace (and sight) the same thing happened to the far-slimmer Miguel Chan, who is chief sommelier of Tsogo Sun. Only one leg of his chair snapped off, and he managed to hold his head above the table, balanced on three chair legs as only a man whose profession involves a lot of alcohol can do.


At least the wines were top class, with some gems I would willingly pay for – once Nedbank has settled my claim for loss of dignity and a scraped elbow.


Certainly the wines were of a standard fit for this fine financial institution, and so much better than the pissy plonk which we had been served a few weeks earlier when Nedbank hosted analysts and journalists to its latest financial results.


I asked then for a glass of red, took one sniff, and then asked for a glass of white. It was drinkable but I have had better wine in economy class on many an airline. The food was enjoyed by most at both the tasting and the results presentation, but I found the plain crackers during the tasting far more appealing.. They accompanied the wines and I tucked in (once I had a fresh chair).


After the tasting, I had to ask why they would serve a massive super-sized round Brie cheese if the caterers couldn’t be bothered to mature it? In fact, I have often bemoaned the massive contrast between the superb cheeses which are made in South Africa and the plastic poop which is all too often served at functions. Winemakers and their groupies are normally pretty knowledgable about food, and can tell a fuck up when they see one. So why cut corners?


I suppose I have just been rather unlucky recently. I recently took my wine guru Michael Olivier and his lovely bride to a once-great Joburg restaurant for lunch and had an awful meal. Meat should be warm, even if it is stuffed in a burger.


The same chilling thing happened at a Pretoria café a few days later.   Then during two separate outings a chum had a hair in his food at the same Pretoria restaurant  – not once, but twice in a row.


Fortunately I have had one excellent meal recently at Alfie’s Pizzeria, another Pretoria restaurant which I visited for the first time the other day.


Welcoming service, great food and some well-matched wines turned a casual lunch into a real treat.


The one problem was the lack of parking, which was damm annoying, but I suppose that having to walk a few yards wasn’t such a bad thing given my copious consumption.


So what conclusions can we draw?


Apart from Nebank seats requiring a health warning and Nedbank’s house wine more suited to alcos sleeping under a bridge, I have to weep at the lack of consistency of so many South African restaurants. You don’t always realise how badly you are treated and fed until you stumble across somewhere which does it right.


The Cape Winemakers’ Guild auction is looming – on the 1st of October – and I urge you to bid. The proceeds go to transformation in the SA wine industry. Given the almost-exclusively white and male bunch showing their wines, there is a hell of a way to go.


Next up on my list of treats will be the Stellenbosch at Summer Place food and wine evening later in October.


Last year there were some remarkable wines and brandies and some pretty dull and uninspiring food options. Thankfully, the cheese was good. So I knew at once I wasn’t at Nedbank.


And finally…..


I wrote this on board a BA flight from Joburg to PE. We had just been served breakfast. I was given a slice of bacon which was more of a ration than a rasher, and the eggs – at least they were supposed to be eggs – were so over-salted I could not eat them.


If you can’t do it properly, then don’t do it at all. BA? Bloody Awful. Must try harder, or at least a bit.


NB: I asked for a gin and tonic on the return flight, and was offered just a tonic. I then tried the red wine.   Not nice.     Airlines cater for tourists and are an obvious showcase for South African wines.   It is unpatriotic to pour plonk, and whoever is responsible for BA catering should be made to eat only their breakfasts for an eternity in Hell.


Tweet of the Day:


Jewish Comedians (@JewishComedians): Oscar Levant: Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find real tinsel underneath. | #Quotes


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Die Vine Intervention. A White and a Red from Bonnievale

Food and wine veteran Michael Olivier introduces the Bonnievale Sauvignon Blanc and Barrel-Select Shiraz.

John Fraser is in the Johannesburg studio with branding bloke Jeremy Sampson, Absa’s Chris Gilmour, Debi van Flymen from Grape Slave and Corlien Morris from Wine Menu.


Check out the podcast:

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