WoSA Feb 2023

Rydal Jeftha Inspires Inclusivity in the South African wine industry.

Rydal Jeftha awarded the Growing Inclusivity award at the 2023 Wine Harvest Commemorative Event.

Rydal Jeftha’s success is significant, partially because his pathway to success has been quietly clearing a path for others to follow.

On February 2, 2023, the South African wine industry awarded Rydal Jeftha the Growing Inclusivity Award at the Wine Harvest Commemorative Event. At a special ceremony on Groot Constantia in commemoration of the 364th anniversary of wine in South Africa, four awardees were honoured. Recipients alongside Rydal included Ken Forrester - for the 1659 Visionary Leadership Award, Dr Erna Blancquaert - for Viti and Viniculture, and Wendy Jonker - for Recognition for Wine Advancement.

Since 1974, the South African wine industry has hosted a commemorative event as a blessing of the harvest and has used the occasion to give recognition to individuals for their exceptional contribution.

Previous recipient of this prestigious award, Denise Stubbs the MD of Thokozani Wines was awarded in 2022 for the role she played in the creation of the Thokozani Group of Companies, alongside 65 other farm worker shareholders.

Upon awarding Denise in 2022, the organisers expressed that: “The criteria for individuals to qualify in this category includes paving the way for others through the elimination of barriers; setting an example and inspiring others; contributing to the knowledge that others can use and having an overall effect on the image of the South African wine industry.”

The 2023 honouree in the Inclusion category, Rydal, has served as MD of Koopmanskloof - one of the largest Fairtrade producers in the world - for 16 years. Rydal led the pioneering empowerment project, Thandi Wines. 

Rydal has garnered 42 years of experience in the agricultural industry, 20 have been spent in the wine sector. He has served in various roles at Lourensford, Ceres Fruit Processors, Capespan and Vinfruco, as well as others.

In reflection, Rydal says: “My Career in the wine industry started in October of 2003 after joining Vinfruco, an export wine company in the position of General Manager: Thandi Wines.

Being a General Manager of a Brand is quite different to being a Managing Director of a company with total control over grape and wine production as well as sales and marketing. I had 18-year experience in the primary production of fruit as well as 2 years in the processing of fruit and 3 years in a fruit marketing environment. At Koopmanskloof I started as CEO and was promoted to Managing Director after acquiring 33% shares in the company in 2009.”

The wine industry has been criticised for its slow path to transformation.

However, Rydal cautions: “The industry is doing a lot of things to enhance transformation and making it inclusive. The process is slow because we are all competing for the same self-space. Customers and consumers don’t buy your wine based on transformation. It must add value to their portfolio and consumers want wines that deliver the best quality on a price point.”

“Most beneficiaries of transformation initiatives don’t have control over production and finding the right partner that has the necessary infrastructure is what is taking up the most time. There are very few niches and, let’s face it, transformation is not a niche. Building trust and relationships takes time, but are fundamental and the key to success. The industry can only provide vehicles, but cannot also drive these vehicles. We have to drive it, so we must make it inclusive on merit. That’s also what would make it more sustainable,” he says.

Rydal has been celebrated for forging a unique path and being a shining example for others to follow. For those he mentors, he encourages: “avoid negativity, fight adversity and embrace our destiny. Then to focus, work hard with determination and perseverance.”

In a continued pattern of professional excellence, Rydal’s business strategy not only gave Koopmanskloof a competitive advantage, it upheld excellent standards for the business and its value chain.

“When I started at Koopmanskloof in 2007 it had no competitive advantage or unique selling point. My strategy was to establish Koopmanskloof as the biggest producer of Fairtrade certified wines of the Stellenbosch region. Stellenbosch being a wine capital of the world would bring the ideal prominence to our wines. This assisted me in building the Koopmanskloof brand as a producer of quality wine that happens to be Fairtrade certified as well,” Rydal says.

In 2012, Kooplanskloof was celebrated among other agri-processing businesses which were promoted for trade exports in China. 

The South African wine industry, upon presenting Rydal with his award, acknowledged Koopmanskloof for being transformed from a 100% bulk wine producer for the local market to an international bulk and packaged wine exporter.

Rydal supports the ideals that advance Fairtrade, stating: “Fairtrade gave me an opportunity to provide a dignified manner to empower my workers. For every Fairtrade certified bottle of wine, almost R1 comes back directly to the workers as a premium. This means workers had an extra income that could be used for their own social upliftment priorities.”

Rydal continues to be a passionate ambassador for the wine industry both at home and abroad. 

He says: “working with passionate people makes the industry resilient, exciting and innovative. The global wine industry is highly competitive and capital intensive. If you lack resources you have to work smart and our industry, without government support like many of our competition, has established itself as a fierce competitor with rich diversity and talent.”

Upon awarding the honourees at the 2023 Wine Harvest Commemorative Event, Dr Ernest Messina, Chairperson of Groot Constantia declared: “I trust that by recognising the four 2023 honourees, others will be inspired to take the industry to even greater heights.”


- Blog by Tshepang Molisana