Some weeks ago I arrived home from Johannesburg towards late afternoon. It was a cloudy day, and there had been drizzle for hours; all in all a rather drab day. But in the Ellensgate Garden there was bright colour. Three important members of my team were at work there, wearing their rain suits, clearing up. It seemed a good moment for a portrait. Let me introduce you to them.
On the left is Phillip Modiba. He came to Sequoia as one of the temps in November. Unusually, he had had quite extensive experience as a gardener before. Phillip is currently working, among other things, on resurrecting the hedges. In the middle is Johannes Makgoba, who is Plantation Foreman and has been with us for about 5 years. The Makgoba clan gave its name to Magoebaskloof (Valley of the Makgobas), as our local area is known. Besides being in control of the more agricultural side of operations, he is second-in-command to my new Foreman, Lucas Letsoalo, on the right. These three are at the centre of a team of which I am very proud, especially as some rocky ground had to be crossed during the last months of last year. I have mentioned before that I lost four members of staff during the fourth quarter of last year and eventually terminated my foreman’s contract at the end of December. At that stage I had already identified Lucas as the person with whom I wished to replace him. Lucas’ wife,
Petunia (aptly named!), is my domestic helper – which of course means that she also looks after the cottages which are let.
Colour in the garden. Besides the obvious irony of the colour in the pic coming from humans rather than plants, there is more subtext to my title. Since the ‘bad old days’, and to this day, people who are not ‘white’ (European – frankly, ‘pink’ would be a better description) are referred to as being ‘of colour’. All this ‘colour’ came to be celebrated as things changed when we proudly started calling ourselves The Rainbow Nation in the early 1990s. The fact that the end of the 20th century did not witness in South Africa one of the great bloodbaths in history is a miracle for which we can not stop giving thanks. Instead 27 April 1994, 17 years ago today, all South Africans went to the polls for the first non-racial elections, followed soon thereafter by the investiture of Nelson Mandela as president. The Rainbow Nation is a celebration, not only of unity in diversity, but of the end of a dark and stormy period in our history.
During the school holiday Lucas and Petunia’s sons, Phutiana (9) and Zakia (5), spent a great deal of time on the farm. Black people seldom keep dogs as pets, with the result that even quite big children are often terrified of dogs. But it was not long before even Mateczka was included in their games, although unlike the other dogs, the two never sat down together with her and stroked her.