If your inner voice didn’t automatically respond “Awethu!” to that headline, then you’ve not been around South African struggle politics or political demonstrations much.

Amandla means power and the response is “It’s ours!”. There was another Nguni language saying which was popularised by the 1956 women’s march, again during the liberation struggle, that still resonates strongly: “Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo” – and is translated as: “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.” 

Three decades on from the first ever democratic elections in 1994, empowerment in South Africa remains an issue, but female empowerment is one of the most visible achievements in the local wine industry. More and more black woman winemakers, viticulturists and brand owners are in positions of prominence. Ntsiki Biyela, Berene Sauls and Carmen Stevens boast international profiles while Mahalia Kotjane, Nongcebo Langa, Gynore Fredericks, Kiara Scott, Chandre Petersen, Natasha Williams, Unathi Mantshongo, Vivian Kleynhans are just a few of the many names of note gaining recognition for their achievements.

The bulk of the worthy students selected for the annual Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé programme are women. It’s fitting then that one of the earliest protégés, Praisy Dlamini is harnessing her experience gained over the past 18 years to provide a hand up to the next generation. 

Dlamini is the general manager and winemaker for Adama Wines – and one of the prime movers behind the establishment of HER Wines, an operation which is entirely owned and operated by black women. Joining Dlamini in the HER team are viticulturist Ruth Faro, brand manager Onida Morilly, logistics controller Jody-Ann Appollis, human resources officer Jeanine Hollenbach, accountant Jeanine Goosen, production clerk Nichole van Wyk and quality manager Verna Ross.

“If I look at Adama, it’s a complex operation. Everything I’ve done so far is coalescing,” she said. Lessons learned during her three-year protégé mentorship between 2007 and 2010 with Philip Costandius at Lourensford, David Finlayson, then at Glen Carlou and Pieter Ferreira at Graham Beck Wines have borne fruit in her mentorship of the HER team members and bursary recipients.

Adama wines grew out of a need to recognise the multi-generational contribution that families had made to Bosman Family Wines of Wellington over the years. It is fully worker owned and has established strong Fairtrade credentials in the export market. Headquartered in the impressive winery on the Voor Paardeberg once home to African Terroir wines, Dlamini admits: “I need to handle volumes but I need to know what quality is. I have to understand the fruit and what to do with it. We as a team have to plan so that we can accommodate the capacity but with an idea of what the consumer or the end market actually wants.”

As its website states: “HER Wines proudly stands as a pioneering force in the South African wine industry, as the premier enterprise entirely owned and operated by black women. Every aspect of our extraordinary journey, from nurturing the vineyards to creating extraordinary bottles, and overseeing marketing, production and distribution, is driven by the passion and dedication of black women. We value the exchange of ideas, mutual inspiration, and the cultivation of deeper connections within South Africa’s wonderfully diverse communities.”

HER wines sent its first bottles to market in 2020, the year of the pandemic – and it has grown. The all-woman team are justifiably buoyant about the fact that the brand has a national listing with the Hussar Grill chain as its first listing, and that their wines are available in retail at both Woolworths and Makro.
There’s a small blazon on the bottle right corner of each front label which states their drive to give back. 2% of all profits are ploughed into a bursary scheme to provide funding for deserving black women wanting to further their tertiary education. But the process doesn’t stop there. Active mentorship by the HER wines team is also part of the deal. They have all learned from their successes and failures along the way and are adamant that imparting additional skills and life lessons to those they’re helping is part and parcel of the hand up they provide.

In just a few short years they have been able to assist five women with bursary funding, with Naslee Morkel, Jamie-Lee Abelse and Amisha Hoffman (pictured) the latest beneficiaries. But they have also notched up success of their own with HER wines. In November 2023 their Facebook page contained the news that they’d been awarded 4 Stars in the 2024 Platter wine guide for the HER Shiraz 2022 and 2023 Chenin Blanc – as well as being selected as one of the Guide’s Good Value picks. “We are so proud,” the post read. “We’re raising the bar, challenging ourselves to work even harder to create opportunities for young black women eager to empower themselves.”

Not only that, but HER wines launched the Amandla label in the United Kingdom last year – and were awarded The Drinks Business Best Launch of 2023 in July. Done on a miniscule marketing budget the Amandla campaign punched way above its weight to win this recognition. 

As reported: “The judges said that the ‘brand’s story and messaging resonated strongly with consumers and retailers alike, leading to major retail listings and impressive media endorsement. Amandla’s packaging and brand design effectively captured the energy and vibrancy of the venture, while their strategic media outreach and social media campaigns successfully generated extensive coverage and built an engaged community of followers’.” 

They will never be “the traditional back-slapping boy’s club”, Dlamini states. “We want to get together to empower each other, nurture talent and embrace dynamic change.”

Wine is a wonderful catalyst for inspiration and gathering people together – but it needn’t just be about the bottle’s contents. “For me care means empathy. I must go the extra mile and put myself into someone else’s shoes so that I can see things from their point of view. And once I am there, I need to do something about it. Care is meaningless unless it is followed by action.”

Action and power are a heady mix, one HER wines and Amandla are harnessing to bring about change for women and for wine.

Fiona McDonald

One woman, many hats: Adama, HER Wines and Amandla boss and winemaker, Praisy Dlamini
HER wines bursary recipients, from left, Jamie-Lee Abelse, Amisha Hoffmand and Naslee Morkel
Aslina owner and winemaker Ntsiki Biyela
Mahalia Kotjane of Three Quarters Wines