Fredo is on a mission! Our heritage is under threat here at the Southern Point of Africa and we need to find something to cling to as we embark on the years ahead.
This is particulalrly true for fruit and wine – industries which have been closely followed by Fredo during the past 40 years. Fredo was the co-writer of Tree of Life, by Siegfried Stander, which was published early in the 1980’s. That dealt, amongst others, with the early days of the Cape fruit industry. There were plenty of references about what happened when those early settlers arrived at the Cape and there have always been some competition as to which of fruit and wine was the oldest industry in South Africa.
That is assuming that those who believed for more than three centuries it was the European settlers who brought such good things as fruit and wine to our country back around 1652. The history books are full of it and there are even very old trees and vines in some of the historical gardens of Cape Town to proof that.
Jan van Riebeeck, who came here with those three tiny ships and caused mayhem in the lives of the local Khoisan people, wrote about it. Legends were born, even one talking about Harry the Khoisan stealing all things fresh from Jan’s gardens, causing all sorts of trouble in the settlement below Table Mountain. Harry’s early name, which is written in the history books, have become un-cool in the new South Africa.
So has the name of Cecil John Rhodes, founder of the well-known fruit and wine farming operations in the Groot Drakenstein in the Franschhoek region. Rhodes Fruit Farms later became Anglo American Farms, but the heritage and linkages with Rhodes the previous prime minister of the Cape Province is unmistaken. The same Rhodes concurred the lands north of South Africa where people such as Robert Mugabe these days rule. Fredo believes that Rhodes is buried in Zimbabwe Motopo Hills, a fact bemoaned recently by Mugabe, who is not a fan, but who is probably in good company because he is a significant land-grabber himself.
Rhodes has recently been kicked of his perch on the campus of University of Cape Town by those in the new South Africa who blames there problems today on things which colonials like Rhodes did some 150 years ago. For good measure they also attacked statues of the imposing old President Paul Kruger in Pretoria, Queen Victoria in Cape Town, some other Afrikaans leaders standing in places all over the country where the made contributions to history in the past.
For good measure, the Ghandi statue in Johannesburg also got a covering of red paint, while near Port Elizabeth a statue dedicated to the humble horse and its contribution to fighting for peace in the world, also came acropper. Even heard of a horse with colonial inclinations? Mind you, they probably came from Europe or other places, but Fredo believes that they are quite gentle souls and do not deserve this kind of treatment.
So Fredo thinks our heritage is in trouble. Most practices and systems which have served the country for so long, arrived here from Europe or the UK. In the fruit business, and wine, while we like to celebrate all the milestones along the way, we now have to perhaps think that these milestones have become ‘un-cool’ – in one swoop, 300 years and more are supposed to be wiped away. This would suggest that old Jan van Riebeeck did not sail past Robben Island on 6 April 1652, that he did not plant that first little apple tree and started that vineyard that the first wine was made of.
Fredo is so concerned that he and others will lose this fruit heritage. That is why he is embarking on a search of a new heritage by finding fruit heritage beacons which cannot be questions. He is search for wild figs and berries, maybe even wild vines, that could offer the faintest suggestion that our forefathers in this country had their own milestones before the colonials got here.
When did the Khoisan or the tribes of Africa pick their first wild figs or berries, or when did tribes of Africa make something which could vaguely have represented wine? If you know, let Fredo know.