Community News

FERNANDO JORGE – CELEBRATING THE PEOPLE OF SWELLENDAM

FERNANDO JORGE: BRILLIANT HOTELIER AND BUSINESSMAN 14/08/1938 – 22/06/2020 FERNANDO JORGE Fernando Eusebio de Jesus Jorge was born in the village of Camacha, on the island of Madeira on 14 August 1938 to Manuel and Matilda Jorge. He passed away in Swellendam on 22 June 2020. Manuel was the first teacher of the village, while Mathilda stayed at home to raise their four girls and four boys: Arlinda, Laurinda, Albertinia, Vera and Alfredo, Abilio, Celestino and Fernando. Manuel died when the children were still young, and his wife had to be breadwinner and housekeeper to eight children. She performed this challenging task with dignity and taught her family how to survive on limited resources. Fernando took after his namesake, the famous soccer star Eusebio, and became a rising soccer star for his local team, eventually going on to play soccer for the team of Nacional in Funchal in his free time. His fulltime job was to work alongside his brothers in the Restaurant Televisao (a.k.a. Television Restaurant), famous and loved for introducing the first TV to Camacha.While life was good and full in Camacha, it was their sense of adventure and desire for a better life that eventually motivated Fernando and his brother, Celestino, to go to Lourenco Marques (today known as Maputo) to open their own restaurant, The Paris.When they heard of the opportunity to take over the well-known Altona Fisheries & Takeaways in Cape Town, they decided to accept the challenge. This meant that they had to work day and night to provide fast food to the families and workers of Woodstock and Central Cape Town. He met Maria da Luz, the hardworking manager of the bakery section at this business. They started courting under the strict guardianship of Maria’s uncle and aunt, and eventually married in July 1974. At that point they also decided to move to Swellendam to take over the Swellengrebel Hotel (previously known as the Commercial Hotel). They have four children (two daughters and two sons). The eldest, Grisalda, is married to James Stewart. The second eldest, Carlo, is married to Lynnie. The third eldest is Raul and the youngest, Ana-Paula, is married to Larren Campher. There are also a total of six grandchildren. The hotel grew by leaps and bounds under Fernando’s dynamic leadership. The experience he gained in Camacha, Maputo and Cape Town gave him a solid background for this task. Furthermore, he was staunchly supported by his wife and staff members, like Miemie Libalele and Heather Mowzer (both ± 40 years each) and Hendrik Jamboe (± 35 years). Since Swellendam is a relatively small town with many guest houses (at one stage there were 85), it is exceptional that this hotel has managed to provide the travelling public with 48 guest rooms for almost fifty years. In addition, it has eating facilities for 250 people, which are open right through the year in contrast to several local restaurants who close their doors during slack periods. In order to provide the best possible service, the staff compliment has been maintained at 40. One can only marvel at the management competence that has steered this business through difficult times experienced by the whole country and the town. When he was younger, Fernando helped to promote local tourism and contributed generously to putting Swellendam on the map as a reliable and welcoming tourist destination. Mr Jorge was not only intent on promoting his business. Whenever he could assist with community projects, he played a significant role. When the Railton Foundation Swellendam started the Swellendam Youth Council, he agreed to allow them to have their monthly meetings at the hotel to provide the learners with a neutral venue free of charge. They normally met on the stoep to avoid being a nuisance, but he frequently told them that it was too cold outside and that they should go inside. He and his wife stood out as people who hated racism. During apartheid they often sought ways to circumvent the laws that forbade them to accommodate guests who were not classified as White. One couple testified that they were frequently invited to have tea and snacks at the hotel at the expense of the Jorges. A young man from Paarl related that he was a guest at their daughter’s wedding and at the hotel. These actions may seem trivial to those who did not experience the severity of apartheid laws. Nevertheless, there are many who remember how complicated life was made because of the government’s obsession with race.Fernando Jorge will be remembered as a humble servant of his customers, who quietly ensured that the Swellengrebel Hotel remained an important asset of this town. We wish Carlo well in his new capacity as manager of the hotel while Covid 19 has been paralysing international tourism for eight months and will continue to do so for an undetermined time. Article by Basil May

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *