SGNN GoodNews


Joseph Dhafana – From refugee to sommelier

In the aftermath of the outbreak of Xenophobia attacks in South Africa in 2008 and with his mother asking him not to go, Joseph Dhafana took a big risk. He left his home country to carve a new path in South Africa. He ended up entering the country illegally in 2009, seeking asylum in a refugee camp at Musina and now almost 10 years later, he has become the 7th accredited sommelier in the country.

For Joseph, life in Zimbabwe was hard with all the economic hardship the country was facing. Facing empty shelves in shops and even with his mother’s warning ringing in his ears, he left with his wife, without his mother’s knowledge and entered South Africa.

After moving from the refugee camp at Musina to the Johannesburg inner city, he ended up sleeping outside the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, where he was spotted by a cousin, during a TV interview. This cousin contacted his family in Zimbabwe, arranged for money and he found his way on a 29-hour journey to Cape Town, to the Swartland region, where his cousin was staying.

In Wellington he worked as a gardener for a year, after which he washed dishes in a restaurant. From that position he was promoted to barman and later a waiter. It was as a waiter that he wanted to have his question answered about how grapes can make wine.

On his 28th birthday he tasted his first glass of wine and that is how his journey into the wine service industry started. In 2013 he received his first certificate as a sommelier. In 2014 he was offered a job at the world-famous La Colombe restaurant. In 2015 he became a certified wine judge and also that year, he was the third Best Wine Taster in South Africa.

Last year he represented Zimbabwe at the Blind Winetasting Championship in France, which he will do again this year.

And then his biggest achievement for this year came on the 18th of July, when on the day that former president Nelson Mandela would have turned 100, he received his internationally recognized Sommelier-certificate. This after he recently passed his South African Sommelier Association (SASA) exam, making him the 7th SASA certified sommeliers in South Africa – and the first one to join the ranks in two years.

This certificate was handed over at the La Colombe restaurant, where Joseph is a sommelier.

Joseph says, “there are many people out there who can’t smile in this world or even lift their arms and if you look at yourself you will see you have a mouth to smile and you can lift your arms, so use them.” He has also encouraged people to help those in need.

He also gave this advice, “there is no goal that is too high and know your worth. You should know exactly how much you are worth to the world. Because sometimes if you really undermine or underrate yourself, you may be sad with bread crumbs, while you deserve a piece of fillet.”


Merentia van der Vent – Senior Reporter and Anchor, Smile90.4 FM News