THERE’s something to be said about the memory of those who come from very little financially and rise to become millionaires without doing much work. The black economic empowerment millionaires that is – they seem to suffer from tragic memory loss, forgetting very quickly where they came from.
It wasn’t so long ago that the likes of Marcel Golding were toyi-toying with their trade unionist comrades in the quest for justice and equality, for both the workers and the population at large. One of the most admirable aspects of South Africa’s trade union movement was its ability to work with other movements including liberation movements, in crushing apartheid. The struggle for workplace democracy was intertwined with that of the liberation of Black people.
Golding rose through the ranks of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as office bearer to become its deputy secretary general. He was also a leading light in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) since its inception in 1986. In the wake of democracy, as comrades began sitting from across the table with their oppressors to structure business deals, he together with long-time comrade Johnny Copelyn left trade unionism to focus on capitalism. They established business ventures which catapulted them into billionaire status. Golding was chairman of Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) which owned e.tv and had television network eNCA as one its flagships. They also owned the casino group, Tsogo Sun, among other businesses. The two parted ways acrimoniously, with Copelyn accusing Golding of inappropriate share dealings while Golding accused Copelyn of editorial interference.
Fast forward to 25 January 2017 when out of the blue, Golding, having bought a wine farm in Stellenbosch four years earlier, decides to evict one of the farmworkers who was born on the farm, his wife and two young children. The story as reported in Noseweek, paints a picture of a man who has not only forgotten where he comes from but one who’s also greedy and spiteful.
When Golding bought the farm in 2013, he found nine workers’ cottages, three of which were occupied. One of them was occupied by Armien Hendricks and his family. His parents have worked on the farm all their lives and until 2010 he lived with them in their cottage. When he decided to get married in 2010, the previous owner offered him the use of a cottage from across his parents.
When he took ownership of the farm, Golding renovated the workers’ cottages and Hendricks was asked to renovate his, since he wasn’t employed on Golding’s farm.
In January of 2017, Golding tried to get Hendricks to sign a lease agreement which among others required he pay R5000 pm and the parties to give each other two months’ notice period to terminate the lease. Hendricks didnt earn enough to pay the amount. If he had signed the lease, Golding would have been able to remove him from the farm within two months.
When Hendricks refused to sign the lease, the former unionist gave him two-months notice to vacate the premises.
Hendricks was born on the farm and lived there all his life. The law requires that lawful occupants of land must be given ample notice before they can be evicted; that alternative accommodation must be sought for them and the eviction must be just and equitable and may only be demanded for a good cause.
The trade unionist and his lawyers hadn’t complied with any of these conditions. Six of the workers’ cottages remained unoccupied and so Golding could never say he was about to rent out Hendricks’s cottage or posit a good enough reason why he was kicking him off the property.
Court proceedings began over the matter and Golding offered to buy the Hendricks family a wendy house of R13,500, transporting their belongings to wherever the wendy house would be pitched and liaising with the municipality to secure a site for the wendy house.
On April 2018, Judge Fortuin ruled in favour of Golding and ordered the Hendriks family to vacate the farm within approximately four-months from the date of the judgement. Furthermore, she ordered that Golding purchase the wendy house and that the municipality provide a site.
The Hendricks family appealed the judgement and in August this year a full bench of the Western High Court set aside the Fortuin judgement in its entirety. They found Golding’s bid to evict the Hendricks family was unlawful and without good cause.
The law has stepped in and safeguarded the rights of Hendricks family. The question is for how long and in what environment will they be living. Golding is sure to make their lives hell – he comes across as someone quite capable of being malicious.
This story is a far cry from the Golding who in one interview with Padraig O’Malley on February 1994 had the concerns of the poor closest to his heart.
“Padraig O’Malley: I’ve noticed among people I’ve talked to in various townships that there’s a great mood of high expectations. Are those going to be delivered?
“Marcel Golding: I don’t know whether it’s high expectations; I don’t know whether people who have no sanitation, who have no pavement, a few clinics, no flush, no clean water, whether that’s necessarily high expectations. To me those are really basic things that all decent societies ought to have. So in that sense I think the expectations of ordinary people are quite realistic, they are quite reasonable, and it’s something that I think is incumbent upon a democratic government to address. We believe that there are substantial resources that are not being properly used…”
Shame on you Marcel, that you have so forgotten the concept of ubuntu that you would rather have six unoccupied cottages than offer one to the Hendricks family who include two children under the age of six.
Sources: Full Noseweek article is here https://www.noseweek.co.za/article/4343/Marcel-Golding-suffers-court-humiliation