Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


Siwela Masoga found power in her name and created a legacy with her wines

'Winemaking is everything I dreamed it would be and more. It is a lifestyle and you cannot compare it to a 9-5 job.'


What once was a reminder of trauma, pain and sorrow today represents strength and success. After decades of hating her first name, owner of Siwela Wines, Siwela Masoga, found the power in it and created a legacy for her children with her wines. Born in Soweto to a single mother (just as her name Siwela – the one that fell into – suggests) and raised in Marulaneng-Ga Mphahlele village in Limpopo, Masoga was given a name that echoed her mother’s traumatic journey while she was pregnant with her daughter. 'I hated the name Siwela' “For years I hated the name.…

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What once was a reminder of trauma, pain and sorrow today represents strength and success. After decades of hating her first name, owner of Siwela Wines, Siwela Masoga, found the power in it and created a legacy for her children with her wines.

Born in Soweto to a single mother (just as her name Siwela – the one that fell into – suggests) and raised in Marulaneng-Ga Mphahlele village in Limpopo, Masoga was given a name that echoed her mother’s traumatic journey while she was pregnant with her daughter.

‘I hated the name Siwela’

“For years I hated the name. My mom said she gave it to me because when she had me she was struggling, from looking for food inside bins to being homeless,” she said looking gloomy.

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“When she used to explain what my name meant and why she chose it for me, the look on her face always changed, the tone in her voice and even her posture changed.

South African biotechnologist, wine maker, and founder of Siwela Wines, Siwela Masoga speaks to The Citizen at her Tastingt room at Hartbeespoort in North West Province, 14 June 2023. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

“That proved to me how hurt she had been at the time. So when I was growing up I thought the name reminded her of the trauma and heartache she went through carrying me, which sometimes made me think I also reminded her of it.

“And for a while it reminded me of how much she struggled to give me and my siblings a better life.”

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But Masoga said that after going through at least four other names for her wine business in a search for the perfect one, nothing came close to fitting as well.

“I wanted to create reference and representation for all the little girls who looked just like me, girls like my daughters, something that I didn’t have coming into the industry,” she added.

Her journey

Masoga fell in love with winemaking after moving to Cape Town to study biotechnology at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

“I majored in microbiology and fermentation focusing on various scientific processes involved in winemaking such as growth kinetics, microbial activity, factors and controls during fermentation, nutrient and substrate uptakes during the winemaking process,” she said.

South African biotechnologist, wine maker, and founder of Siwela Wines, Siwela Masoga speaks to The Citizen at her Tastingt room at Hartbeespoort in North West Province, 14 June 2023. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

After more than six years in the wine industry working as an intern with companies such as Waterstone Wines in Stellenbosch, Masoga developed a tremendous passion for wine.

She wanted to chart a new path for generations of black entrepreneurs to come into an industry previously male and white dominated.

“And I guess that’s when it hit me that for the first time I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.

“Moving to Cape Town opened up a lot of opportunities for me, especially in the wine industry. If I had not made this move I probably would not have become a winemaker.

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“Winemaking is everything I dreamed it would be and more. It is a lifestyle and you cannot compare it to a 9-5 job.

“We spend excessive amounts of time in the cellar and in the vineyards trying to keep up with the ever-changing elements.

“And that’s why I honestly believe that those who come into this business with the sole purpose of making money are going to hate it.

“But if it’s a passion then that will drive you even when the business is not doing so well.”

South African biotechnologist, wine maker, and founder of Siwela Wines, Siwela Masoga speaks to The Citizen at her Tastingt room at Hartbeespoort in North West Province, 14 June 2023. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Apart from shaking up the wine industry, since 2018 Masoga has lived and breathed wine, opening a wine academy where “I teach people about wines and the business of wine” .

She has also named one of her daughters Chardonnay.

“There’s only so much you can do with the knowledge you have acquired as a wine-maker, and because I enjoy talking about it I thought why not also teach those who want to learn about wines in general or the business of it,” she said.

Awards

She has won several prestigious awards for her wines such as a gold medal for her Siwela Brut Chardonnay at the SA’s Women in Wine Awards in 2019 and the Platter’s Award for a red blend.

“This would not have been possible if it wasn’t for my mother. Given what she went through she always pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves and to strive for everything.

“She made us believe that nothing was out of reach and that as long as we wanted it we could have it,” she said.

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“So having her as a mother we knew that you must either study or get out of her house but we knew she meant well.

“Because we knew when push comes to shove she would sell her kidney just to get you a plane ticket to go study.

“I can only hope that I’ll be the same for my daughters, Fundiswa and Chardonnay, so that they strive for greater things as well, even though I’m not as strict.

“I just want to encourage them through my actions to follow their dreams.”

– reitumetsem@citizen.co.za

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