Tbo Touch talks wine, religion and humble beginnings (video)

21 February 2016 - 02:01 By SHANTHINI NAIDOO

The high-rolling personality - who counts celebrities such as boxer Floyd Mayweather, US bishops Noel Jones and TD Jakes, and performers John Legend, Akon and Grace Jones as "friends and family" - recently became a winemaker.

The first bottle of his Touch Warwick cabernet sauvignon, a collaboration between Molefe and Stellenbosch's Warwick Estate, raised R1.3-million in a charity auction last weekend. MSC shipping head Sello Rasethaba outbid four people for the bottle at the AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction at Klein Constantia estate.

"This has to be one of the biggest highlights of my career," Molefe, 34, says. "It is a quantum leap. Even if I won't let it define who I am, I say that because I was in a room of the wealthiest of the wealthiest winemakers in South Africa, who come from generations of making wine ... and here comes this young boy from Sharpeville whose wine gets R1.3-million. Wendy Appelbaum, the richest woman in Africa, shook my hand and said she is a fan, that I am a superstar. I was like, 'What is happening in my life?'"

The wine will be launched officially on March 31. "I was looking for a taste that when it hits the palate ... you must think it's the actual wine that Jesus made when he turned water into wine," Molefe says.

Last year, the DJ-turned-businessman launched the Touch Lifestyle range: perfumes, condoms and a ticketing company. His money card is due to launch soon, with plans for a clothing label in place. He was voted the ANN7 entrepreneur of the year for 2015.

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As a schoolboy he sold sweets and cakes, and Molefe says entrepreneurship came naturally.

"I have always been selling. Confectioners would deliver sweets to the principal's office for me. I even had a bakery, and I shared the profits with my high school," he says at his swish offices in the newly opened Capital Hill building in Sandton.

"I believe in my brand and I stand behind it. My partner, Gary [Harlow of Blue Label Telecoms], said he is going to make me a R100-million businessman in years to come. I don't know why, but he chose me. The same with the Ratcliffe family from Warwick; we worked together to create a wine because it is one of my passions. Their investment ... makes me need to participate 100 times more.

"Anyone who has invested in Brand Touch must not curse the day they were involved. So I am not going to live apprehensively."

Molefe is close to Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula and insurance mogul Douw Steyn. He grew up in a politically active family. "My grandfather was Bishop Molefe and he presided over the funerals of the victims of the Sharpeville massacre. I grew up with that always in mind."

Molefe left for New York in his teens, where he lived with family friend Grace Jones. "I caught on early that if I did not leave the country, I would be selling insurance today. I knew that entertainment is one space we hadn't learnt to commodify back then. I learnt so much in the US. And living with Grace ... well, that opened many doors."

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Molefe interned at Def Jam Recordings and got a marketing degree - and the strong American accent his listeners know him for, along with the foghorn sound that has become a trademark of his drive-time radio show.

Returning to South Africa, he worked without salary at Metro FM, earning a meagre living by bringing US artists to the country. "After 18 months, I got my first pay cheque, which was R4000 a month. But I went from being blacklisted to being able to buy a home five years later," Molefe says of his Dainfern residence, which he shares with his wife, PR agency owner Nandi, and sons Zuri and Ruri.

His Instagram posts document the high life, including watching Mayweather box in Las Vegas.

Molefe's office is lined with framed and mounted guitars, albums and photographs signed by the Rolling Stones, Pink and Taylor Swift.

"My belief is that people come into the world naked, and leave naked," he says. "In-between we must make the most of what God has given us.

"Why must I be nervous of people who are famous? People like Floyd [Mayweather] and Puff [Daddy] are as human as we are."

Apart from an obvious love for wine, Molefe has a penchant for fine dining. But he counts Nigerian stews as a favourite after his frequent visits to that country.

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"I think I am living the life of a young man aware of his talent and gift. I try with the days I have been given in this world to use every opportunity that God gives me," Molefe says.

"Those come from prayers which do not cease. I know I am a product of grace. There is no formula. I know there are people who are better-looking, more hard-working, DJs who are more talented.

"Why am I still the biggest in the business? People may say it is arrogant, but I'd like to see someone who comes from where I come from make watermelons out of lemon seeds, like I have."

Molefe counts his radio show, which has some of the highest ratings in the country, as his lifeblood.

"Were it not for Metro FM and the platform I have been given, I don't think people would know who I am. I am careful to use it well and we are doing life-changing things. We gave three students full scholarships last month. I would not give it up even if I didn't need it for employment. This is where it all started."

 

naidoos@sundaytimes.co.za