Very sad news of Wonga

Thursday, 1 June, 2017
Judy Brower -
We are very saddened to hear of the sudden death of Wonga Nongqotho.

Wonga Nongqotho had just returned from a 3 week fabulous trip to the UK and France, courtesy of Distell, for an experience of a lifetime - visiting Bordeaux wineries, Scottish whisky distillers and more. The trip was one of the prizes he won in 2016, when he was crowned the best Wine Steward for the Cape Legends & Artisan Spirits Inter Hotel Challenge, while working at the Cape Grace.

I spent quite a bit of time with him while he was competing and he really did steal the hearts of all those he touched. What a delightful, crazy and passionate young man, who seized every opportunity and life with both hands. He was sadly killed in a car accident in Cape Town this week, soon after returning to South Africa.

We are very saddened by his sudden passing and send sincere condolences to his family and all those who knew him. There are so many in the wine and hospitality world who knew and loved Wonga and his loss will definitely be felt throughout the industry.

Should anyone want to send through any tributes or memories to honour him, please add a comment to this article, or send your tributes to and I will prepare another article of these special memories.

A Memorial Service will be held on Tues 6 June at Rondebosch Boys - but not at the High School, but the Preparatory School Hall in Campground road - at 15h00, and his funeral will be in Mthatha on Saturday 10th June.

Rest in peace Wonga - tributes from family, friends and the wine industry...

Tribute from Winston Mathews
God saw he was getting tired,
And a cure was not to be,
So he put his arms around him,
And whispered "Come with me",
With tearful eyes we watched him suffer,
And saw him fade away,
Although we love him dearly,
We could not make him stay,
A golden heart stopped beating,
Hard working hands to rest,
God broke our hearts to prove to us,
He only takes the best,
Although his heart stopped beating,
His love will always remain,
His absence puts upon our hearts,
A very heavy strain,
For now he is in a place of everlasting rest,
We just have to understand that God,
He only takes the best.
Rest in Peace my friend. Wonga - Winston Mathews

Tribute from David Patrick - Wonga's friend

It was with shock, disbelief and overwhelming sadness that I received the terrible news of the passing of my dear friend and former colleague Sibonele Wonga Nongqotho in a car accident in Cape Town in the early hours of Thursday morning. 

I was privileged to have met Wonga through our dear mutual friends Sandy Ingram and Noel Durie and I witnessed his meteoric rise through the ranks at Cape Grace Hotel Cape Town. He sailed through his first interviews and was immediately offered an entry level in Room Service division.

It didn't take long before he was receiving accolades from guests and colleagues alike for his grace, charm and superb service. He received the Employee of the Month Award numerous times, before being offered a position as part of amazing Quanita Brenner's breakfast team in Signal Restaurant. Not too long after that, he was offered a position as a Waiter in Signal Restaurant where he once again excelled, charming his colleagues and guests with immaculate service and amazing attitude.

Wonga showed a keen interest in wine and under the initial watchful eye of the brilliant Cape Grace Wine Director Martin Drotsky and later, the careful tutelage Sommelier Tinashe Gwese (who became his mentor), Wonga found his calling. He took to Oenology and the World of Wine like a duck to water. He qualified as a Sommelier and won the Best Wine Steward Award at the ultra-prestigious Inter-Hotel Challenge. He was also nominated and won the employee of the year award at Cape Grace. 

Wonga was everything and more than I ever expected he would be. Humble, charming, erudite, witty, generous in spirit, kind, clever and tolerant. He touched so many people's lives in so many positive ways. He transcended cultural barriers like they never existed. He was deeply proud, respectful and observant of his Xhosa roots and traditions and yet fitted so seamlessly and suavely into the role of a modern South African man. Immaculately groomed, well dressed and trendy, he was everything to everyone whoever knew him. His smile was as incandescent as his warm and friendly nature.

His beloved friend Sandy Ingram and I were privileged to spend his last few hours with him over dinner last night at her house. He spoke so happily of, and enthralled us with stories of his recent life-changing trip to Europe with the Christele, Brand Ambassador of Distell, who sponsored his prize as Wine Steward of the Year. His eyes were opened to the possibilities that lay ahead for him and which he would no doubt have achieved and exceeded had he been given more time on earth with us. 

My enduring memory of Wonga is a happy and beautiful one; we all hugged each other goodbye and he waved goodbye to me from the doorway at Sandy's house in Woodstock. A few hours later he was gone forever. 

It's hard to make sense of Wonga's sudden departure from us but I take comfort in the positive ways that he changed my life and the lives of all that loved and knew him. He was a shining example of everything good that makes us human. I am so proud to have known him, spent so many happy times with him, discovering new and beautiful wines. 
It's so very hard to have to say goodbye this way and I am so sad that our Wonga is gone. I feel so keenly for his beloved parents who raised him so beautifully and for his younger siblings for whom he was too, a shining example. 

My heart goes out to all who feel the same way about our beautiful friend, son, brother, relative and colleague. 
May you rest peacefully with your Ancestors my dear friend, Wonga. I will never forget you.


Judy Brower

Judy has been running alongside her hubby Kevin Kidson since 1996. She takes photos, attends functions, writes occasionally, sells services, is Mrs HR at the company, cooks yummy lunches from time to time and generally is the glue at

2016 Cape Legends Interhotel Challenge awards - WINNER Wonga Nongqotho
2016 Cape Legends Interhotel Challenge awards - WINNER Wonga Nongqotho

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