Cynthia and Su: Parallel Lives


Historian Alan Bullock called his joint biography of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin Parallel Lives.  As Cynthia Carroll vacates her La-Z-Boy CEO recliner at Anglo American at the end of the month and Su Birch is rumoured to resign as head of WOSA the next day, Allan should perhaps think of a reprise.  For Cynthia was for six years the public face of non-renewable resources in SA while Su fulfilled the same role for renewable resources and wine in particular for twice as long.  While the verdict is still out on the careers of both women, failure seems a likely grade.

pl 198x300 Cynthia and Su: Parallel Lives

Which is a huge tragedy, as both came to power on a surge of optimism and both were laid low by labour troubles last year: Cynthia on the platinum mines of the Bushveld and Su in the burning vineyards of the Boland during the disastrous farm worker strike which also consumed WIETA, the ethical trade initiative, which was largely her creation.

Quite why the industry allowed WIETA to flourish when there was already a global ethical trading brand Fairtrade is a result of personal political ambitions trumping common sense.  The explanation that Fairtrade is “too expensive” won’t wash as Fairtrade were never consulted and as the producer of 2/3 of the world’s Fairtrade wine, SA was dealt a winning hand.

SA farmers are still being played for patsies with the grudging admission by WIETA that Fairtrade audits (far stricter than those of WIETA itself) would be accepted on payment of a R500 “administration charge.”  For what?

Anglo American looked East to Australian Mark Cutifani for a replacement CEO and some industry insiders are punting a foreign replacement for Su.  Chinese winemaker Tersina Shieh left the Independent Wine Centre in Hong Kong in January “to concentrate on writing, winemaking and promoting wine culture in Greater China.”  Tersina impressed at the birth of the Wellington Wine Route last year and with Xi Jinping boozing it up at the 5th Brics Summit in Durban, could there be a better candidate to run WOSA?