ENTREPRENEUR: Paul Siguqa — Franschhoek wine farmer and owner
As a child of farm workers in the Western Cape, he dreamt of buying his own farm. Now that he has done this, he has not stopped dreaming
Paul Siguqa is wearing muddied gumboots and a broad smile as he welcomes guests, who are enjoying the view from the veranda of the Franschhoek farmhouse.
Some are taken aback that the man greeting them is the owner of the wine farm.
Siguqa, 41, is breaking new ground, literally and figuratively: he is the first black man to own a wine farm in the valley. Siguqa laughs heartily at his guests’ surprise, then becomes contemplative. "You know, this is a dream come true, but I didn’t do this just for myself, I did this for those who must see there is life and hope beyond the farm wall."
He is on familiar ground as the owner of Klein Goederust Franschhoek Boutique Winery, which he bought for R12m. He grew up in the area, the child of farm labourers. His roots, like those of his vines, have always been around Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl.
The original Klein Goederust farmhouse, built in 1902, has been restored and is now a restaurant and events space. The stable is a wine-tasting room.
Two years ago Siguqa and winemaker Rodney Zimba, his best friend, were dismayed when they came across the winery. The previous owner had planted olive trees and the farm had gone to ruin. The remaining vines were diseased and had to be destroyed. The two put their efforts, along with those of local workers, into restoring the vineyards.
Zimba knew nothing was going to stand in Siguqa’s way. "He said: ‘Let’s do this.’ So we did."
Zimba resigned as winemaker at Noble Hill Wine Estate in Paarl to join his friend.
The two grew up on the Backsberg estate on the slopes of Simonsberg, one of the renowned wine farms in the district. Zimba lived with his parents in the houses reserved for coloured people and Siguqa and his family in hostels for black people.
When Siguqa began school there were 43 children in his grade 1 class. He was one of three who wrote matric. The children dropped out to work in the vineyards and orchards. He credits his mother, Nomaroma Siguqa, for urging him to continue with his education. He says she is a "powerhouse of a woman", one of a few promoted from the fields to the cellar. She has since retired to the Eastern Cape.
As a teenager, Siguqa sold fruit at the side of the road and saved enough to buy a car. He kept saving, even when he went to study media at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of the Western Cape, getting bursaries along the way.
Today he lives in Gauteng, where his wife, Makhosazana Zwane-Siguqa, is editor of True Love magazine. They have two children, aged three and 16. The couple’s priority was to save. "I saved every cent I could," he says. Some people assume that now he has achieved his dream, he has stopped chasing one.
But on a walk around the 10ha farm he points to a spot: "That’s where the cellar is going to go. It will be more than R30m and, believe me, it will be built. The last hurdle is getting enough financing."
That he bought the farm did not surprise those who know him well.
As a boy, he vowed to buy a farm of his own one day. It was an ambition based on the generational poverty surrounding him.
"Farm workers knew nothing else than working in the vineyards and earning far too little. It is incredibly difficult being a farm worker, and being a farm worker’s child," he says.
He may have grown up in the Western Cape, but a distinctive and treasured emblem of his clan in the Eastern Cape — the hornbill — dominates his wine label.
It’s partly in homage to his mother, for whom he also named the farm’s méthode cap classique (MCC). "She was very precise with what she wanted it to taste like, so we could only bottle it when she was happy. And it’s my mother, I would do anything to make her happy."
The MCC sold out in a flash, but he says the next bottles will be available soon.
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