What an amazing feeling it was when that massive truck’s doors closed and took off. I cried a little of relief and gratitude.
I’ve been working at the Santè Hotel & Spa in Paarl (for the past 26 months) while we (my colleagues and I) all knew it wouldn’t be forever. The building was originally owned by J Arthur Brown, the mastermind behind Fidentia, a Panama fraud scandal. Mr Brown had spent the savings of 47 000 widows and orphans, wasting more than R500mil of their money for personal gain. He was arrested in 2007 and the property went under curatorship before Mr Brown was eventually sentenced to 15years in prison as the face of South Africa’s biggest financial scandal.
On the 1st of December 2016, exactly 2 years after his sentence started, the property (allegedly worth more than R100mil) was auctioned off for R25mil and we knew our time was coming to move on. This was, as some news agencies called it, the last bit of Brown’s opulence that will ever cause heartache – and heartache it had caused, so much.
My senior went on maternity leave late in January and I had to run the show, as Spa Manager. All went well until the 1st of March 2017. After a 15minute meeting between the proud new owners of Santè Hotel & Spa and our CEO’s, the 48 remaining employees were called to a conference room and informed that they would all form part of a retrenchment process being brought on due to the change of ownership and occupants of the building. It all went downhill. Our last day would be 18 April 2017 and in the 48 days to come, I would be tested in every single way possible – emotionally, physically and mostly my integrity.
I wanted to run away so many times. Literally run, leave my car in the parking lot so that it would take anyone looking longer to realise that I’m gone. These tests also changed and taught me. I learnt patience, perspective and self-sustainability.
We still had clients and were fully operational on Monday the 17th of April, whereafter, on Tuesday morning, we started packing. Chaos erupted as the truck had to be loaded systematically, we realised that we had storerooms that we had forgotten about, the internet was switched off before I could do my last cashups, booze was being carried out by redundant employees, the new owners were watching everything with a hawks eye, we had to pack, label, carry, move and clean all at once. And afterward, we had the last staff party, which I didn’t get to enjoy much because I was still packing the last remaining things.
The truck was locked and loaded at around 21:00 and pulled off. Leaving myself, my Ops Manager, two CEO’s, our procurement officer and, of course, my loyal Ryno – all brokenhearted in front of an empty mansion of memories and bloodsweat. It was done. I breathed.
Today, as I’m writing this, I’m filled with gratitude for that place. For every amazing sunrise it gave me, every fight and lesson and hug and every person that brought value to my life,, but mostly, I’m grateful that it is in the past, making way for the future, for new opportunities and other developments. I wish the new occupants of this marvellous building every bit of abundance and will surely return once they’re done with the great revamp, out of curiosity and also to finish the epilogue of “learning that with great struggle comes great reward”.
Author: Arno Hattingh
Arno matriculated from Hoërskool Waterkloof in Pretoria in 2012 and went to study Arts Management at the Western Australian Academy of Arts in Perth. His passion for the arts still remains as he currently works as Logistics Manager at Bakwena Spa in Paarl.