Love thy neighbour: The story of Paul Siguqa

He doesn’t like being called the first black owner of a Franschhoek winery, but Paul Siguqa broke glass ceilings that very few others could. A big part of his secret is the incredible relationships he’s built with his white neighbours

Paul SIguqa having a drink of one of his own wines. Photo: Supplied

Paul SIguqa savours a glass of his own wine produced on his farm, Klein Goederust, in Franschhoek in the Western Cape. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

As the son of a Franschhoek farmworker, Paul Siguqa could never imagine that one day his white neighbours would be among his biggest cheerleaders in his quest to buy his very own black-owned winery.

In fact, the owner of the Klein Goederust Boutique Winery declares that these neighbours have not only taught him all he needed to know, but have faithfully held his hand. He bought the farm in 2019.

“I must tell you, strangely enough, our biggest support has been from our neighbours,” Siguqa tells Food For Mzansi. “You know, you have a tractor breakdown, who do you call? You call your neighbouring farmer. A fire breaks out, who do you call? You call your neighbour. The neighbours have been incredible.”

While transformation in Mzansi’s agricultural sector has been slow on many fronts, Siguqa advises those who wish to enter the sector, to embrace the beauty of difference. Do not fear white people because of preconceived ideas, but rather invite them as advisors who can help make your dreams come true, he adds.

Unlocking opportunities in wine

Looking back on his journey to success, Siguqa remembers that he was once a farmworker’s son who did not see future possibilities in the world of wine.

“When you grow up on a farm, your world is very small. Remember, on the farm [lives] only children of farmworkers or [the] farmworkers themselves. There are no teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers or municipal workers. Everyone you interact with is a farmworker.

Paul Siguqa with his own wine he produced on his farm, Klein Goederust, in Franschhoek.. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“So, for example, on a Saturday morning, if you did not go to school, a farmer will come and put you on a tractor and send you to work on another farm for the whole day. In that sense your world is very small and your dreams are very limited.”

Siguqa attributes much of his success to his mother, Nomaroma. She continues to inspire him to actively change the narrative of how farmworkers’ children are perceived by many South Africans.

“Doing my little bit to change the narrative is my biggest achievement. The narrative is that being born as a child of a farmworker, you might end up being the next farmworker.

“The greatest thing is the jobs we have created. That, to me, is the biggest achievement and I would like us to build on that to create more jobs. We have 17 permanent staff members. During harvesting [season] we have over 50 workers. We want to empower people, especially young, black people.”

However, despite breaking the glass ceiling, Siguqa is hesitant about attributing his success to the colour of his skin.

Twenty-seven years after the country’s first democratic election, he finds it rather strange to be called the “first black owner” of a wine farm in Franschhoek.

Instead, he believes more young people should be encouraged to work the land and climb the ladder of success.

More needed from government

Paul Siguqa and Rodney Zimba proudly display his wine on his farm in Franschhoek. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“Government needs to put measures in place that give people access to land and it needs to be the right people. We need people with the passion and the know-how to work the land. We have read stories of [black] people who been given the land and in less than three years the farm is [no longer] productive. We need to move from that and take responsibility.”

Members of parliament have a role to play too, adds Siguqa. “They need to move the people of this country back to the centre of all their discussions. Whatever is decided needs to benefit the people, especially those who work the land.”

Siguqa urges government departments to work together for the greater good. He also calls on the state to provide greater assistance to farmers and agripreneurs, in the interest of the economy.

“The silos in government are really frustrating. Everyone is working in their own box. One of the [earlier] rejections I got from the department of trade, industry and competition was that they were not providing any funding during [the] Covid-19 [pandemic], contrary to what the president said. Access to land and lack of support through resources are frustrating us.”

Success comes at a price

Having grown up in the Franschhoek region, Siguqa has always dreamt of owning a piece of land in this picturesque Western Cape valley. Klein Goederust was bought with money he saved up over many years, including from a career as a media manager.

Siguqa had to spend quite a bit of money to renovate the winery and eatery.

“We bought this [ten-hectare] farm which was in a bad state. It was run down. When we arrived here, we made a call that we want to do top notch boutique wines. The only way to achieve that was to work the land. We had to take out all the vineyards that were here because it had diseases.

“Out of all our wines, the most special one is called Nomaroma. We have named it after my mom because she is our motivation. She spent over 40 years doing this, working on a wine farm. She was a farmworker. Most of her life, she worked at a cellar as a worker in the champagne room. My fondest [childhood] memory is seeing her in the champagne room.”

Paul Siguqa with his employees at his farm in Franschhoek. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

But how did Siguqa plan his big comeback as a farmworker’s son turned farmowner?

“You need to come with a sense of business and ownership. The biggest barrier in this country in terms of transformation, is access to land. This is very critical. However, the land in the area I am is very expensive. I acquired this land through lots of savings.”

This renowned businessman is already working on his next move. “Our future plans are to expand. Number one is to get a cellar. We have gone through the whole process of acquiring one. All the things that are needed to build the cellar, are done. Another future plan is to acquire more land,” he shares his vision.

If there is one thing Siguqa has learned, it is that success is where preparedness meets opportunity. “If one door is closed, knock it down and get to the next one. Just never give up on your dreams. The rejections must motivate you to keep going.”

ALSO READ: Persistence pays off for Maseko farming twins

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