Western Cape Premier Helen Zille received a standing ovation from the more than 700 interns selected for a year’s in-house training by the Western Cape government at a ceremony at Gardens Commercial High School yesterday.

Zille was quick to point out that it was not any government’s role to provide – or create – jobs. It was the job of the government to create the environment for businesses and the private sector to thrive, to be free of corruption and responsive to the needs of the citizenry.

The 723 interns will do helpful things such as provide classroom or information technology support at Western Cape schools or do clerical and administrative work for departments such as Human Settlements and the provincial Treasury. The Premier’s Advancement of Youth programme has the appropriate acronym PAY, and provides a modest stipend. Interestingly, it does not take the top matriculants.

This year’s recruits must have passed matric, but the selection criteria include that the applicants did not secure a place for further studies or employment for this year and are “not sure of the next step after school”.

Two interns waxed lyrical about the opportunities that had been opened for them. Oyama Mafundityala from Cape Town High School praised the opportunity as “something to make us better, not bitter”.

Anthea Blake, the daughter of a domestic worker from Vredenburg, said the programme gave people who had been knocked off their feet a chance to “get up”.

She called on the audience to give the premier and her officials who backed the PAY programme a standing ovation.

Zille, who noted that she herself had started off her working life as a packer at Checkers, said she had been told by her parents to dedicate herself to any job, however humble, “because it is your anchor in life”.

TKAG award

Civil rights organisation AfriForum has saluted Jonathan Deal, the chairman of the Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG), for his Goldman Environmental Prize for his work in the fight against shale gas mining in the country’s semi-desert Karoo region.

AfriForum spokesman and head of environmental affairs Julius Kleynhans described Deal as “a true hero… an environmental guardian”.

Each year, the Goldman Environmental Foundation selects grassroots activists from around the world and honours them for their work. It carries a cash prize of $150 000 (R1.3 million).

Kleynhans noted that Deal had now been able to pay salaries to staff who had worked on a voluntary basis for two years.

Deal received the prize in San Francisco yesterday. He is the second South African to win the Goldman Environmental Prize. Bobby Peek won the award in 1998 for his fight against industrial pollution in the south Durban region.

AfriForum noted that the TKAG had fought for – and secured – a moratorium on shale gas mining in South Africa, but this had been lifted in September last year.

The civil rights group said it would be ready to help TKAG to appeal the issuing of any licences to explore for shale gas. “We are proud to be associated with the TKAG,” said AfriForum, which grew out of the Solidarity trade union.

Kleynhans pointed out that shale gas mining by hydraulic fracturing was a technique used to extract natural gas from rock layers deep in the earth. Environmental groups and many scientists believed this technique degraded the land, polluted the water and fouled the air, he added.

Cape Classics

When Rob Bradshaw, the president and chief operating officer of New York-based wine importer Cape Classics, brought a group of influential US distributors and retailers to the Western Cape last week, he took them to the townships outside Cape Town, as well as to some of the most attractive wine estates.

The lunch during the township visit was at Mzoli’s restaurant in Gugulethu, which has become a major tourism attraction for visitors from Europe and the US.

The party visited Langa, Nyanga and the Ekhaya eKhasi Art and Education Centre in Khayelitsha to see some of the changes that have taken place.

Then they were taken to the beautiful Kanonkop, De Toren, Thelema, Buitenverwachting, Bartinney, Excelsior and Weltevrede wine estates.

Bradshaw explained that he brought all Cape Classics’ guests from overseas to the townships and the winelands because he wanted them to leave “understanding the heart and soul of South Africa. I want them to see and feel the entire story.”

He said that on his first visit to the townships eight years ago, he saw “nothing but aluminium lean-tos and poverty”.

“Today, I stand on the balcony of a creative centre in the middle of that same neighbourhood and see dozens of permanent structures being built and mini-businesses being born. Change is happening and it’s exciting to see,” he said.

Bradshaw also commented on the changes in the wines offered, to meet more modern tastes.

He said a new generation of winemakers were replacing the heavily oaked “smoky” reds with lighter, more refreshing wines offering a “purity of fruit”.

The industry was also getting younger, with a new crop of highly qualified and passionate winemakers in their 30s and 40s coming to the fore.

Cape Classics was founded by Capetonian Andre Shearer in 1992, when South African wines were struggling to build a reputation in the US market.

Today Cape Classics represents 18 prestigious wine estates and, according to a spokesperson for the company, almost 35 percent of all South African bottled wine sold in the US market carries the Cape Classics seal.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Donwald Pressly and Audrey D’Angelo.