Mark Solms and British philanthropist Richard Astor, each control one third of the 320-year old Solms Delta estate. They have tackled the social realities of South African agriculture with maverick zeal by establishing a trust with an equal one-third equity stake which benefits the estate’s historically disadvantaged residents and employees. Experts say farmers elsewhere in SA and in Zimbabwe could do well to emulate this model.
From the profits, the farm residents enjoy comfortable homes and social programmes that have greatly improved their health, education, future prospects and general quality of life. To make this three-way partnership work, Solms and Astor put their own assets on the line, reasoning that without a realistic wealth-sharing model their own privileges were both indefensible and unsustainable. This forward-looking arrangement is based on a full acknowledgment of South Africa’s painful past.
The estate’s Museum van de Caab, which houses a treasury of artefacts unearthed at the estate, is a living testament to all who lived and worked there over the centuries. Solms-Delta also supports a musical heritage programme – Music van de Caab – that preserves the joyous, resilient and defiant musical traditions of the winelands.