BY TAURAI MANGUDHLA
UNLIKE millions of Zimbabweans who have fled the country to neighbouring South Africa in search for job opportunities, a team of entrepreneurs set out to make their own history.
Theirs was a dream.
They didn’t land in Johannesburg to look for employment, to earn a living.
Instead, they were determined to see their dream of operating a distillery come true.
Their idea was to make inroads into the South African spirits and wines market and claim a significant share.
Armed with their vision, skills, passion, faith, determination and a little capital, they decided to follow their dreams and passion.
Today, they proudly show off awards earned along the way, as a demonstration of what hard work and focus achieved, even against the odds.
To their advantage, the southern African market has been warming up to their products, and they are confident the future is bright.
Zimbabweans and Mozambican nationals comprising an architect, an accountant and a project manager have teamed up with a female South African national, a banking and finance specialist, to produce various brands of liquor targeted for the southern African regional market.
Today, they prefer to be referred to as the Pofera family.
They left for South Africa in 2005 and 16 years later, they are proud shareholders and directors of their company, Masau Craft Distillery.
From humble beginnings, the team worked for years to gather capital and then they borrowed half of their capital requirements from banks.
“It was 50% bank finance and the rest had to be raised through self-capital, that is employment in our case,” Lameck Garonga said in a telephone interview.
Masau’s Wooded Brandy was last year awarded a bronze medal in the brandy category and the new brand launch — design and packaging at the International Spirits Challenge 2020.
The accolade came after a rigorous judging process that saw more than 50 category experts gather for an intense blind tasting session.
Garonga said Masau Craft Distillery provided a unique range of Handcrafted African Spirits of premium quality.
A careful hand selection of Masau fruit begins the process of a hand-crafted Masau spirit. He said every year, every season and every winter was unique, so is the uniqueness of their spirits. Created using traditional recipes and hand-crafted techniques, this premium range of brandy is unique and exclusive to southern Africa.
Masau Craft Distillery produces Masau Golden Gin, Masau Vodka, Masau Golden Liqueur and Masau Spirit Aperitif.
The young company now employs six people, half of which are women.
“We hope to see positive results from the launch date onwards since we already have a good following on Instagram and Facebook,” Garonga said.
Giving a background to their journey, Garonga said the Pofera family settled in Zimbabwe from Mozambique where they fermented and distilled Masau to make alcoholic spirits used for family functions and traditional ceremonies.
Upon moving to Zimbabwe and working in the mines and farms the family continued to distil the spirit for the enjoyment of close family and friends.
This family legacy of handcrafting and distillation by the Pofera family is now in the 3rd generation which has turned this family pastime into a craft distillery in South Africa.
The 4th generation is being trained from grassroot level of farming Masau fruit trees which will begin to bear fruit in five years’ time when Masau aims to launch its first whisky to the World in 2027.
“At Masau Craft Distillery we provide you a unique range of Handcrafted African Spirits of premium quality.
“Masau Craft Distillery is owned by family and very close associates. A board of directors is responsible for the day-to-day functions of the business,” Garonga said.
Garonga said in the African context the circular Masau brand, circular dots, with chevron patterns on which the Masau registered trademark is based symbolised continuity, endlessness of the natural product of Masau fruit that God has given mankind for their enjoyment.
He said in Africa, the circular design was viewed as beautiful as the sun that bears testimony to that the sunrise and sunset were as equally beautiful by virtue of their colour and shape, as a full circle.
“To the African artist a circle is a pure form hence Africans did not make artefacts that were rectangular or with right angles — our huts, cattle pens, utensils, bear testimony to this. African eyes were trained to appreciate the beauty inherent in objects displaying a circular design — this means from the outset functionality and aesthetics were married,” he added.
Estimations by the Zimbabwe Community in SA (ZCSA) organisation, MyRight2Vote pressure group and others are that about three million Zimbabweans live in SA.
Indications are that out of these, the majority are irregular migrants, but many of these, like in the case of the successful wine makers, are doing well as budding entrepreneurs, not as job seekers.
ZCSA chairman Ngqabutho Mabhena said there were several Zimbabwean migrants who were running small and medium enterprises while they were irregular residents.
“The requirement is that one must have (enough capital) to qualify for a business permit. This should have been made outside SA. The challenge that we have is that we have businesspeople who have assets or money, but because they reside in SA, they do not qualify for a business permit.
We are hoping for the White Paper on International Migration which recognises such migrants within the Sadc region that while they do not qualify, they should be allowed to run businesses in South Africa,” Mabhena said.
“The White Paper on International Migration proposes Sadc work visa. We believe that once it is operational such migrants or businesspeople will then qualify to apply for the Sadc visa so that they are able to run their businesses.
This process started in 2015, the White Paper was gazetted in 2017 and is before Parliament. The reason to review the White Paper on International Migration as adopted in 1999 was the realisation that the immigration policy in SA is Eurocentric and does not accommodate Africans, it is not pan-Africanist in outlook,” Mabhena said.
“So the White Paper of International Migration as gazetted in 2017 recognises that migration is a global phenomenon, that within the Sadc region there are people of low skills who flock to South Africa for opportunities and these people would not ordinarily qualify to regularise their stay in South Africa under the current Immigration Act. It then makes provisions or proposals to document people of low skill,” he added.
- Follow Taurai on Twitter @mangudhla7