Fruit exporter Tru-Cape had social media users raising eyebrows on Wednesday morning with a post on their website announcing an upcoming event that celebrates Dutch settler Jan Van Riebeeck picking the first apple at The Company Gardens in 1662.
The post includes two Tru-Cape staffers dressed in colonial attire and smiling next to a Tru-Cape billboard.
This as the #RhodesMustFall movement continues amid a growing call for decolonisation and sensitivity over colonial artefacts.
“Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, the largest distributor of South African apples and pears, is marking this day with a lunch, talk and tree-planting on Friday April 17 in Grabouw. A Winter Saffron pear tree made from a cutting of the oldest living pear tree, still in The Company Gardens, will be planted in Tru-Cape’s Heritage Orchard at Oak Valley Estate, Grabouw,” says the post.
Twitter users questioned the company celebrating colonial administrator Van Riebeek, who is seen by many as an oppressor. They also highlighted the fact that the Cape farming industry was built at the expense of an impoverished coloured and black labour force.
Sheeesh! Was the invite sent by Penny Sparrow? - Susan Olswang on Facebook
Others were more sympathetic to the event:
I would have accepted it, and explored the history of apples/apple farming in SA. Would have been an interesting article. - Glynis Walbrugh on Facebook
Tru-Cape public relations representative Brian Berkman responded: “Tru-Cape is recording the birth of the fruit industry in South Africa, which was first recorded in Jan van Riebeeck’s diary and they are not making any political comment by doing so.”
He also apologised to all those who are unimpressed by the event and its media invitation to join Tru-Cape in a “celebratory drink”: “Any offense caused is not intended. We have survived a painful global history of oppression and Tru-Cape’s recognition of what happened more than 350 years ago is a salute to the birth of the fruit industry and in no way a celebration of oppression.”