Fredo has been looking forward to this day! Seen Louis Kriel again has been on the agenda for some time, but recent work commitments have prevented us from getting together.
Fredo and Louis had a very close working relationship for most of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Working with him was an experience to say the least! We first met in 1980 when Alex van Niekerk, that colorful Hex River grape grower invite us to his farm. At the time Fredo was finishing his first decade in radio journalism and was also ready to embark on something new.
Louis had just join the fruit sector and around the table at Alex’s home he invited Fredo for a chat at his office. Louis explained that he was looking for someone to manage the fruit industry’s communication plan. We made a deal and for the next two decades Fredo worked for Louis during both the difficult times of sanctions and the glorious reopening of the world’s markets for South African fruit after the release of Nelson Mandela and the start of our new democracy.
The need to see Louis again now at his home where he retired on the bank of a tributary of the Eerste River between Stellenbosch and Somerset-West had been enhanced by Fredo embarking on writing a book about the history of South Africa table grapes. Table grapes was part of the famous ‘fruit bowl’ marketing campaign which saw us dominating the major northern hemisphere markets with the CAPE fruit brand. Louis’s leadership and fine marketing and brand development qualities was the key to those successes.
Now in his eighties Louis is enjoying his retirement and the peace and tranquility of his home overlooking the river, was the perfect setting for our chat. Like all of us who are getting older, the memory is not always that good. However, when Fredo went back to those fine days and recall all those highlights and difficult times, it worked wonders.
In the process we recorded some good stuff for the book. Louis was a tough businessman and not scared to take on any challenge. He confronted PW Botha, previous prime minister who was also known as the Big Crocodile for his own brand of ruthlessness, about the need to release Nelson Mandela. He was also not scared to take unpopular decisions and because of that probably has more than one enemy in the fruit world.
Today he recalls that most of his memories of his time in fruit business brings back good memories. “There are probably one or two characters I will not remember too fondly, but we all had our jobs to do and that is all that is important,” said Louis.
So the hour under the oaks listening to the water playing its own symphony over the rocks went by swiftly, was special and we agreed to meet again soon for lunch. “Please make sure that you get here by 11:31. Then it is officially lunch time and we can enjoy a glass of wine too!”
So Fredo and Janey have another appointment soon!