Gaslight Café co-owner’s death a shock

Gaslight co-owner Ferdie Havenga.

Muizenberg has lost a little piece of its heart.

Co-owner of Gaslight Cafe, Ferdie Havenga, 65, died at home on Saturday October 14, having suffered complications following surgery.

Co-owner of the seaside café, Gerrit Oberholzer, was still too upset to put words to what he was feeling. But staff members were grateful for the chance to share their memories and talk about how much Ferdie meant to them. Each of them lauded his compassionate demeanour in their own way.

Patricia Jones, who has worked in the café for 15 years, said she would sometimes get a lift to work with Ferdie as they lived near each other.

“He was so much more than a boss. He was like a father – and a mentor. He could be strict if he needed to be but he was such a kind man. And he had the most infectious laugh. None of us can actually believe it’s real,” she said.

Shesaidwhentheyfirst heard,staffspentthedayin tears.

Nicole Bulter said that Patricia had even been too upset to tell Nicole herself. “She was crying so much her sister had to tell me. When I heard I just sat on the stairs at home, I couldn’t move from there,” she said.

Nicole said Ferdie was the only person who knew what to say and how to calm her down if she was ever upset. “He just knew exactly what to say or do. He was a mentor and a friend to me, but he was also that to all of us,” she said.

Nathan Chigwedere said that Ferdie’s first concern was his staff’s wellbeing. “He would always ask us if we were okay, and he meant it. If we were quiet or he thought something was wrong, he would come talk to us. It was just his instinct,” he said.

He added that Ferdie was very particular about how the restaurant was to be run, but that he took such good care of them, that they in turn wanted to do well, to make him proud.

“He taught us, then gave us the responsibility – he put the ball in our court.”

Nolan Mhandu said the loss was felt very hard in the cafe, by everyone.

“He taught me everything I know, I was so shy when I started here, but he became a father figure to me. I will never forget him, or how he treated me, and what he did for me. I was so shy when I started, but he would just encourage me to put a smile on my face,” he said.

“He was such a kind person. And now, we are trying to recover. So, we will keep working hard, just as he taught us. And we will still put our customers first. And even if we are sad, we will put a smile on our faces, for him.”

In keeping with his wishes, and his nature, there was no fuss, no ceremony for Ferdie. There was an outpouring of condolences on social media sites as regulars learnt of his passing. His ashes will be scattered in a private occasion when his daughter arrives in Cape Town, next week. Gerrit’s reaction to hearing his staff call Ferdie a mentor, friend and father figure, was simple, and heartfelt.

“They are our only family in Cape Town,” he said.