His story is unlikely for someone born to subsistence farmers and never saw a vineyard growing up. This is the life and story of Tongai Joseph Dhafana, a Zimbabwean winemaker from Masvingo, and now building a global wine brand.
“My parents were subsistence farmers who farmed to pay my school fees. After I completed my ordinary levels I moved to Gweru to work at Sino Cement Company,” recalls Dhafana who is in the business of gentlemen.
“My first salary in Zimbabwe was 1099.00 Zimbabwean dollars but by the time I left in 2009, it was in the millions,” he says of his and the country’s decline that pushed many into the region and Western Europe.
His rise was never without enough hurdles.
“I relocated to South Africa in 2009. I stayed at Musina Refugee Camp for two weeks looking for documents that would ease my travel. In Johannesburg I stayed at the Central Methodist Church.”
He did not stay at the church of dreams forever. His destiny was in Cape Town, a place that would teach him the trade that would take him out of poverty and thrust him into the global stage on his way to becoming a millionaire and make him a bon viveur.
“In Cape Town I worked as a gardener and was promoted into washing dishes and soon became a bartender. It is in the bar that I would taste my first glass of wine on my birthday.”
The taste would become his life and his business.
“Seeing smiling faces sharing a bottle of wine triggered my curiosity and interest to explore the miracle of wine,” he says.
“Other than smiling faces, I was also fascinated by the vine and the process the grapes travelled from the winelands to some of the most expensive hotels across the globe,” adds Dhafana.
In 2015 he entered a wine competition that would transform the unknown Zimbabwean into an ambassador of Africa’s second largest economy.
Dhafana was part of Team SA - who won the 2015 South African Wine Tasting Championships and went to France with Jean Vincent Ridon to participate in the World Blind Champs.
“I entered the blind wine tasting championship and we were almost 200 people. I was in the top 20 then we had the finals here in Cape Town at the Taj hotel that included Johannesburg and Durban, that's when I came third and booked my ticket to the world blind wine tasting championships/ world cup of wine. We came 12th out of 20 and that was SA's best score and results ever,” he says.
Now he has his own company, Mosi wines, that makes red and white wines, the Mosi Rouge and Fraternity, he is exporting to Sweden and United Kingdom. Like many of his countrymen, he has gone to school to improve his knowledge of wine making.
“I am balancing my studies with my business. I thought I had found wine when I started the business of wines and with each day I am realising that wine found me.”
The optimism that accompanied him from Chirumhanzi, one of Zimbabwe’s forgotten districts has not left him.
“Our prospects are very positive, and for the 2017 vintage, we are estimating numbers in the region of 10 000 bottles.”
It now takes a single Google search to find his name mentioned on more than one wine website a sign of his young but growing influence.
His success has not alienated him from his countrymen who are also seeking a fortune in South Africa. The Zimbabwean community in South Africa recently honoured his toil with an upcoming entrepreneurship award.
His passion is indicated in our email that signs off with a statement that wine lovers would only relate to: “In water you see your own reflection; in wine you see the heart of another”.