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From Being Homeless After Fleeing Zimbabwe To Being One Of The Best Wine Experts In The World: The Inspiring Story Of Mzansi-Based Joseph Tongai Dhafana


South Africa-based Zimbabwean businessman Joseph Tongai Dhafana has risen from the dusty streets of Manicaland in Zimbabwe to be one of the best wine experts in the world.

Dhafana is now a winemaker who owns Mosi Wines And Spirits, which has a range of liquors on retail shop shelves in the world.

The brands are Tongai Freedom Red blend, Tongai Sauvignon Blanc, and Tongai Premium Chardonnay. His wines are consumed in countries like Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Netherlands, Estonia, Switzerland, Germany and England

To some, it might appear that Dhafana grew up soft and was always exposed to the fine wine life. However, his background was a constant struggle.

Zimbabwe, like some countries, experienced its worst economic crisis in 2008 and Dhafana threw in the towel and left for South Africa.

He and his wife took the difficult decision to leave their child behind so they could scavenge for a living.

The couple did not have a place to stay when they got to Johannesburg and found refuge at a Methodist Church building.

Dhafana looked for a job at a restaurant but was unsuccessful, only to be offered the position of gardener. He performed his duties passionately and was later promoted to dishwasher and bartender.

Seeking better in life, the couple took a train to Cape Town where Tongai became a waiter.

Dhafana said he tasted wine for the first time on his 28th birthday and “did not like it, it was a bit astringent.” With time he developed an affection for wine and enrolled with the Cape Wine Academy in 2011.

In 2012, he became a sommelier at Bar Black Sheep Restaurant. In 2014, he became a manager at The Royal Hotel.

As he was working in this role, Dhafana enrolled for a Wine diploma with the Cape Wine Academy.

In October 2014, he became the Head Sommelier at La Colombe, rated seventh best restaurant in the world at the time, Business Insider reported.

It was also in 2014 that he founded Mosi Wines and Spirits

In 2015, Dhafana was part of Team SA and won the South African Wine Tasting Championships. He was the third-best wine taster.

He then travelled to France with Jean Vincent Ridon to participate in the World Blind Tasting Championships.

In 2017, Tongai Dhafana and his four friends founded and represented their home country in the World Blind Tasting Championships in France, making them the first team to represent Zimbabwe.

The team was 14th out of 28 in the wine world cup.

Wine competition
Winemaker Joseph Tongai Dhafana and his friends. [Image: YouTube/Madman Films
The Zimbabwean’s wine prowess was recognised when he was awarded the 2019 Eat Awards Best Sommelier.

In 2021, Dhafana quit his job to become a full time winemaker.

“After seven years, I hung up my apron at La Colombe to become a full-time winemaker and co-found the Black Cellar Club, which brings together and inspires talented winemakers, and helps make wine less intimidating, especially to people of colour in South Africa.”

The stars look bright for Joseph Tongai Dhafana and there is nothing that can stop his exploits.


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