Westridge Gardens custodian mourned

A Mitchell’s Plain horticulturist, who turned the Westridge gardens into a world class park, and dedicated retired City of Cape Town head of horticulture, recreation and parks for Area South died died at his Langebaan holiday house on Friday July 9.

Roland Williams, 65, from Westridge, retired at the end of July last year after 46 years of service, leaving a legacy in the form of the Westridge rose garden (“Roland says goodbye to his roses”, Plainsman, June 24 2020).

Danny Christians, councillor for Rocklands and parts of Portland, and retired City of Cape Town head of horticulture, recreation and parks for Area South Roland Williams.

He is survived by his life partner Sabena Amos, eldest son Clint Williams, Ashley and youngest daughter Casey.

His cousin Percy Williams said Clint had gone to visit his father last week to tell him he was going to be a grandfather later this year.

On arrival he found his dad’s body.

Mr Williams said the family was shattered by his father’s death and that they took pride in his achievements in Mitchell’s Plain, including the Rocklands look-out hill.

The late Mr Williams had hosted various celebrities at the Westridge gardens including former premier Helen Zille and former president Jacob Zuma.

Danny Christians, councillor for Rocklands and parts of Portland, said with Mr Williams’ transfer from the Helderberg District to Mitchell’s Plain in 2005, “he made the impossible possible by introducing the rose garden project at the Westridge regional gardens”.

Mr Williams’ horticultural experience created a gateway for many tourists and bridal couples, who came to the gardens.

“The rose garden will be remembered as his legacy project where serenity and celebrations are being experienced by many,” said Mr Christians.

In their almost 16 years of knowing each other, Mr Christians said Mr Williams always maintained good relations with staff and councillors – whether it be at meetings or site visits.

“This was evident whenever he surprised his staff with excellent curry dishes and braais,” said Mr Christians.

On Friday June 11 the two met for the last time in the rose garden, where they took photographs and reminisced about the good old days.

“To the family and all bereaved, I extend my heartfelt condolences. Farewell to a great friend, colleague and horticulturist till we meet again,” said Mr Christians.

Mr Williams created the Westridge rose garden, maintained Westridge gardens and 600 other parks and open spaces in and around Mitchell’s Plain.

Westridge Gardens is home to the annual DStv Mitchell’s Plain Festival, which was first held in 2009, and more recently Concert in the Park, which started in 2018.

Rozario Brown, festival founder and director, sent his sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr Williams.

Their relationship started about a year before the inaugural Mitchell’s Plain festival.

“From our very first meeting I became aware of his enormous passion for his work and his commitment to turning the Westridge Gardens into a world class facility where families can come together and enjoy their time together,” he said.

Mr Brown said Mr Williams made their job as event organisers easy by accommodating their requirements for the annual festival.

“He was adamant that we should follow the rules and fully comply with council regulations and by-laws.

“He would assist us in terms of going beyond the call of duty, however, we would constantly be reminded, that ‘if you break anything you shall pay for it’,” recalled Mr Brown.

He said without Mr Williams’ support the festival would not have grown into the massive success and household brand it is today.

“I’ve come to know him as a reasonable, transparent and honest person, who would go the extra mile to help anyone in need,” said Mr Brown.

Mr Williams was always looking at ways to improve the gardens and he had envisioned high mast lighting installed in the park in order for people to enjoy summer evenings in the park, in a safe environment and he always mentioned his keen interest in building a small coffee shop and a possible fish pond somewhere in the gardens.

“Roland’s passing is a major loss to the community of Mitchell’s Plain and elsewhere, where he has made a significant contribution in terms of beautifying the areas,” said Mr Brown.

“His absence will be felt for many years to come and it will definitely be strange not seeing him driving around the park anymore, especially during the annual festival period.”.

He said the legacy of Mr Williams would live on through the great work he left behind and that his colleagues would continue improving the park and beautifying the community in his memory.

A short funeral service will be held at Christ the Redeemer Church, in Westridge, on Friday July 16 at 10am.

Afterwards anyone who would like to pay their respects may participate in a drive-by at his house in Uiterwyk Close, Westridge.