Cheap wine gets Frog’s goat

Alcohol cartons and bottles collected on the greenbelt recently. Two cartons of Mal Piet can be seen at the front of the photograph.

Four years ago a cheap-wine producer promised to remove a cartoon goat from its cartons after it was accused of trying to target children, but the product is still in circulation, according to an environmental group who say they regularly find the boxes discarded by vagrants in the Rosebank-Mowbray greenbelt.

Friends of the Rosebank and Mowbray Greenbelt (FROG) are concerned that the “Mal Piet” brand of wine as well as other cheap wines are being sold at the Aroma Drop Inn liquor store, in Mowbray, attracting vagrants who loiter outside and also drink the alcohol openly around the area known as the “grain silo”.

According to Frog member and resident Doug Metcalfe, vagrants regularly gather in this area, drinking from as early as 10am and leaving empty wine bottles and discarded Mal Piet boxes in their wake.

The organisation is now calling for the sale of “cheap and nasty” alcohol in the precinct to be banned, as one of the ways to tackle the problem.

In 2012, the makers of Mal Piet, Cape Wine Works, agreed to alter the beverage’s packaging due to concerns it looked like a children’s juice box.

A cartoon goat gnawing merrily away on some grapes on the drink, which comes in 1litre and 250ml cartons, drew the attention of then Western Cape MEC for Economic Development Alan Winde, who slammed the livery as “irresponsible”.

After meeting Mr Winde, Cape Wine Works agreed to alter the packaging to display a wine glass.

However, during clean-up operations around the silo, Mr Metcalfe regularly finds discarded boxes of Mal Piet with the cartoon goat labelling still very much in evidence.

The Tatler has established that these wines sell for R5.20 for the 250ml carton, and R20 for the 1litre version.

“There are vast amounts of wine cartons and bottles that are being left at the silo. There is a group of about 12 people who gather there. Not all of them are drinking, but about four or five definitely are, sometimes from 10am,” Mr Metcalfe said.

“We believe they are getting the alcohol from the Drop Inn. We don’t think they are buying it themselves, but are getting somebody else to buy it for them.”

Brands such as Cape Calypso, Cape Style and unbranded bottles also feature among the rubbish.

The Tatler attempted unsuccessfully to get comment from Michael Kovensky, managing director of the Aroma Drop Inn franchise, about Mal Piet. Mr Kovensky was also identified as the managing director of Cape Wine Works in 2012 when the undertaking was made to change the goat label.

However, a manager at Mowbray Drop Inn who would only identify herself as “Michelle” said Mal Piet was sold openly.

“It has been sold at the store for years,” Michelle said, confirming the product still featured the cartoon goat.

“I met with some of the people from the environmental group, but, as I explained to them, my cashiers cannot say who is a vagrant who drinks and who is not. We actually have one guy who comes in to buy 12 1litre cartons for his rugby team each week,” she said.

Mr Metcalfe said Frog was trying to make the area pleasant for families, pedestrians, cyclists as well as skateboarders.

“When I got involved in our greening operations, I did not do it to have to clean up after street people. The vagrants are not confrontational, but obviously people are very wary of people drinking out in the open at 10am.”

Ward 59 councillor Ian Iversen said that two years ago he had managed to have the Mal Piet product removed from liquor store shelves in his ward.

The Tatler contacted Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, for comment on Mal Piet and the sale of cheap wine, but Ms Little had not responded at the time of going to press.