White lies

One might have hoped that Roger Scruton would keep his well-known right-wing prejudices out of his enjoyable wine column. But not so (29 October). First, he unashamedly repeats the propaganda of the apartheid regime's claim that the Boers "were the first to farm in the Cape, the Hex River Valley and the veld" before the Africans arrived. Why, then, was it necessary for the first Dutch settlers, within a few years of their arrival, to plant hedges to separate themselves from the "Hottentots". In fact, the Khoi people were established in organised communities in the area mentioned by Scruton for centuries before "the Boers" arrived.

Second, Scruton writes nostalgically about the beauty of the Cape vineyards that he seems to have last visited in the apartheid years; and then gratuitously adds that, though wine is still produced there, "the region is no doubt going along the sad road to anarchy described by J M Coetzee in Disgrace". If Scruton visited the region today, he would find that, far from sliding into anarchy, its beauty remains unimpaired, it is flourishing with new vineyards, and those who "labour in the vineyards" now live in decent houses and no longer in shacks.

Colin Legum
Kalk Bay, Cape, South Africa

This article first appeared in The New Statesman Special Report - The great Koran con trick

2001-12-10