“It’s a sight that gladdens the eyes of every visitor…”

(Photo : Leigh Willson)


Nkomiyaphi Mbanjwa was quite a character. When we arrived at Summerhill thirty-one years ago, he was already an elderly man, and when we buried him five or six years ago, he was a 102. By some distance, he was the best “sitter-upper” (foal-watcher) we’d ever known, and in all the years he worked at the farm, he never missed a mare about to drop a foal. He was quite a reticent old codger, and in all the decades we knew him, even after we retired him at 96, no-one can recall a smile.

Old Mbanjwa was not one for the airs and graces of the Victorian era, though his time on this earth dated almost back to the era of the good Queen. But when it came to conscientiousness, he was up there with the best. Unlike his modern counterparts, Nkomiyaphi never knew the inside of a classroom, and he relied always on the signs of nature to tell him what routine should follow next. Not for him the calendar we all know, though he never forgot Christmas Day, not because it was a holiday, but because he loved his bonus.

When the daffodils first sprouted forth in late July, he’d come bumbling along to the stud office, tap the ground in front of him with his stick when he found me, reminding me that it was time for the foals to start arriving. When the cherry blossoms broke and the wisteria began to drip with its purple tendrils, he’d remind us to prepare the stallions for covering. Every March, when the countryside is bedecked with the pink, crimson and white hues of the cosmos, his aged counterpart, old man Hlongwane, would remind us that it was time to prepare our departure for the National Sales, and as the leaves began to turn to gold and burgundy, we’d be prompted to start breaking in the youngsters for next year.

But right now, it’s agapanthus time, and the farm is home to tens of thousands of these spectacular plants. It’s a sight that gladdens the eyes of every visitor, and we’ve little doubt it helps to make the day of everyone of us on our way to work. Old Mkomiyaphi would be tapping his stick right now again reminding us that the yearling preparation should’ve started by now and of course, he would’ve been right, because that process is already underway, under the watchful eye of another generation Hlongwane. This time Richard Hlongwane, a man of rich equine talent and a graduate of our international scholarship programme. At his side is Maliyakhe Zuma and Elliot Bhengu another two graduates of our programme to Derrinstown Stud in Ireland and as gifted a pair of horsemen as you’ll ever meet.