Basil has been part of the team for the longest. I, Diana, first met him some 16 years ago when he came as a harvester during the hot summer of 2002. From the start there was something about him that set him apart. Quietly spoken with warm eyes and a gentle twinkly smile he was not only smart but took pride in his work and wow could he pick grapes at a rate. We liked him so much that we immediately hired him permanently and he has been with us ever since.
Basils story in his own words
I was born in Port Elizabeth in Motherwell in 1954. We were 10 children. My father was working at the airport and my mother was working in a doctor’s surgery. I did my primary school at Neworth and I am going to Boys school at Freemantle. I got matric.
After school I went to Johannesburg to look for work and became a boiler maker on the mines for 6 years. Then I left the mines and went into road construction – working for 3 years, but my father said no I must go back to the Grootfontein College of agriculture. So I did this and from there I found a job in Middleburg Cape rebuilding a farm for a landowner. I worked for 5 years and learnt a lot if building skills which I have used my whole life. I can plaster and lay bricks and work with wood. I was very strong then too as a young man.
At this time I decided I must get a wife and I found one and got 3 children. But she was not my type and we leave each other. The children were very small and I only saw them again many years later. They were very shocked and did not know me. This made me sad. Two of the children are still in Middleberg Cape but the youngest is now here in Grooteschuur working in security. I see them every now and then and have helped with money where I could
I found my way to the Western Cape first working for 10 years for Louis Willes at Eikerland as a farm worker. This farm is just on the other side of Fynbos. After those 10 years I worked for 3 years at BOKOMO,building chicken houses and improved my building skills.
But then I come here to Fynbos Estate in 2002. I was picking and Mr and Mrs Simons offered me a job. Now I have been here for 16 years. I have been happy here doing many different things from driving the tractor and overseeing the pickers and doing all kinds of building work. It is quiet here and peaceful and nobody is rude to me or treats me without respect. Although I am the only Xhosa born I get on well with everyone here. This is also because I can speak many languages. English and Afrikaans and Xhosa and Sutu and Twana, Shanga and Zulu. I am good with languages I think. Everyone is always surprised that I can speak their language.
I have had a new partner called Lumka for 14 years and we have a child Nadia who is 13 and living on the farm and going to Welgemeend school in grade7. She is doing very well. She is the most important person in my life. Unfortunately Lumka has a drinking problem and this is not good for us. I also had a drinking problem for many years but I stopped because two people cannot be in a house with a child both drunk. I also knew in the end I would lose my job as the drinking was making me make mistakes that were quite serious. Mrs Simons talked to me many times to help me to stop the drinking and she was very happy when I stopped it
I have seen many changes here in the years I have worked here. The farm has grown and is very beautiful now and I can see where I have helped to make it how it is. The most frightening time was the fires of 2009 and 2011 and in the second one I really thought my house would burn down and everything I had would be lost. That was a bad few days but it turned out alright in the end.
I will retire in 2 years and although Mr and Mrs Simons have said I can retire here on the farm, I am trying to get a house in LIngulettu to live there. Mr Simons took me to the Municipality to help with this, but it looks like I am still far down the list. But I would like this because I want Nadia to have a home for herself. I dream for her to finish school and get a good job but I worry about her in case I die who will look after her?
Addition posted November 2023
Basil dies and a tragic family story
Very sadly Basil Majaja, featured above, died in late 2022 after a short illness. The farm doesn’t feel the same since he’s gone. We miss his presence in the vineyards, on the tractor. his wave as he walks to his house from a day’s work and his quiet spoken discussion with us on many topics over the years. Six month after his death, Lumka, his common-law wife died after a long cancer and their daughter, Nadia, pregnant at 16, left the farm for Wesbank. Fearing for her and her baby, we have tried to find her, with no luck.