#wineforgood Compagniesdrift - Empowering women and the next generation in Stellenbosch

Monday, 1 April, 2019
As a black empowerment business funded by the Myburgh Family Trust of Meerlust Estate, beneficiary Compagniesdrift Bottling and Storage Facility outside Stellenbosch is a full-circle empowerment story. Changing social dynamics and empowering the next generation is part of their game.

The Compagniesdrift black empowerment enterprise was founded in partnership with the Myburgh Family Trust as an initiative that aspires to benefit farm workers in an economically viable manner. Headed by Ilse Ruthford, previously an admin worker at Meerlust, now turned dynamic MD of Compagniesdrift, the company has seen ripple effects of growth. Ilse strongly advocates female empowerment - not for the sake of it but because she recognises the strength of women.

“We’re changing the social dynamic which is a massively important thing. It’s tough. Women on farms not only lack self-confidence but frequently have nothing of their own. Women’s empowerment doesn’t mean taking anything away from men or overpowering them – it’s about independence for women, saying it’s OK to have dreams and goals of their own. I want women to better themselves so that they can elevate their children and improve the lives and prospects of the next generation.”

Understanding the workers backgrounds, with limited schooling, is important but recognizing potential has been a key part of the Compagniesdrift success story. As Ilse's potential was seen by Hannes Myburgh and Albie de Waal of Meerlust Estate, Ilse has shown the same ability in seeing potential of promoting workers to better skilled jobs. 

Like the former cleaner who proved herself – without any formal training – worthy of promotion to logistics co-ordination. Or the general worker who used to man the front gate who now also works in logistics. “She has such potential! She takes initiative and is capable of more than she knows. She’s already got her driver’s licence and Professional Driving Permit." Bernadette, a fellow cellar worker moved into the admin department and currently leads as the head of admin and logistics at Compagniesdrift.

“We are all rubbing off on each other,” Ilse smiles, “we are all get excited to get up each day. I had fantastic opportunities, and I want to give others the same.”

With the next generation in mind the Myburgh Family Trust has partnered on a sustainability project in service to the children of Stellenbosch. Around 60 of the children who are being supported by the Myburgh Family Trust, have been enrolled in a Spark School, in partnership with the Sustainability Institute, Lynedoch, just outside Stellenbosch on the R310.


Spark schools are a network of private primary schools in the Gauteng area offering an alternative form of education in the form of “blended learning” combining traditional classroom teaching with technology-based learning and interactive group work. They opened the first Cape-based Spark school in January 2016 and workers’ children from both the Meerlust Farm and Compagniesdrift attend there.

Janine Waterboer grew up on the Meerlust farm, starting her career as a cleaner. When Compagniesdrift was started 7 years ago, she became a cleaner there. It wasn’t long before she was promoted to receptionist and today she is a Logistical Coordinator for a facility that serves 42 wine producers and stores up to 2 million bottles of wine at any given time.

Her son, Wilton (13), attends Spark Academy. His mother has noticed a huge difference in him since he started attending the school: “He was never very happy at his old school, but now he is much more positive. He also takes part more and is much more confident. He is always excited to go to school and when he comes home, he loves to tell me what he did during the day.”

The school also encourages children to think big. They hosted a University Day where pupils were encouraged to dream about their future career. Wilton loves fast cars and dreams of becoming a racing car driver, or maybe a soccer star … we will have to wait and see.



There are plenty of good news stories about upliftment and transformation in the South African Wine Industry. This #wineforgood website, launched by wine.co.za in June 2016, hosts all the positive stories from the winelands, of which there are plenty. wine.co.za has made April a focus for #wineforgood stories, being Freedom Month, as South Africa celebrates 25 years of democracy.
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SPARK School
SPARK School

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