But to Negota himself, both views were irrelevant, his stock answer was “what should I do when people ask me to be part of things. I go in and do what I can”.
Born on August 17, 1951, to a really poor family outside Makhado in Limpopo, Negota left school early to look after his siblings. He worked and studied, and as one of his friends, Sydney Mufamadi says: “When I was expelled from Khwevha high school for political activities, I stayed with George in Meadowlands. During the week we would wake up and go to the library in Johannesburg and study, eating a pint of fresh milk and half a loaf of bread everyday, which George bought with money he made from selling face cloths at weekends.”
The entrepreneurial spirit that saw him become a household name in business, particularly the transport business, started early. But it is the undying love for education that characterises Negota for most people. I remember around 1979 when he was working for Mobil as a marketer. I found Negota at an agricultural show sitting inside a Mobil Oil company stand at Thohoyandou, with a few five-litre containers of oil that he was showcasing. He had his study guides from Unisa with him, studying in between answering the few questions from show goers.
And there were results to show for this dedication: B.A (Hons) (RAU), B IURIS (Unisa), LLB (Unisa), M COM (RAU), H DIP Tax Law (WITS), H. DIP Co Law (WITS), Certificate in Tax Law (Unisa) and B COM (Hons) (Unisa). At the time of his death he was busy with his doctoral thesis.
This complex man was also a committed freedom fighter. An underground activist of the ANC, he helped many leave the country for military training and then welcomed them back as soldiers, arranging safe houses and resources for missions. As Mufamadi, who is part of the ANC 101 veterans puts it, “George was a really committed cadre of the ANC but who transcended the party divides. He was part of the founding of the black consciousness movement internal wing, Azapo, and even moved a motion that Azapo was not a replacement of accredited liberation movements. He was ensuring that all formations could come together in Azapo.
“Many cadres of BC and PAC got assistance from George to leave the country, including the late PAC stalwart, Maxwell Nemadzivhanani. He knew they were going to PAC or BCM but it did not matter to George as long as they were going to fight.”
He was harassed by police several times. When the ANC was unbanned Negota worked for the organisation in its Human Resource department, running a project of placing ANC trained cadres in employment in the private sector.
A practising attorney, he gained international legal experience while working for the legal department of Mobil Oil in the US. He also worked for the Small Business Development Corporation as a senior consultant. He participated in the conceptualization of KHULA (a government initiated institution founded to wholesale finance to SMMEs) and also drafted its founding documents. He participated in the privatisation of Iscor and National Sorghum Breweries while working for one of the major legal firms.
He played a major role in the general restructuring of transport in South Africa. In 1990, he became the founding Chairman of the National Transport Policy Forum (NTPF), an organisation which laid the foundation for the current transport policy. The NTPF established various chambers such as Aviation, Maritime, Buses and Taxis as well as the Rail Chamber.
He drafted transport legislation for the Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape, and Free State and was until his death advising MECs of different provinces. He was also adviser to the national minister of transport. He founded Cross-Border Road Transport Agency and chaired its board for two terms.
He was also invited by the Gauteng Provincial government to chair the Gauteng Operating Licence Board.
He led or was part of a number of commissions of Inquiries, including: Mismanagement in the Bus Industry in the North West Province; Alleged Mismanagement of Private Donor Funds by the Gauteng Premier; and alleged Mismanagement at the University of Venda. He also investigated the causes of violence in the taxi industry in KwaZulu-Natal for the provincial Department of Transport and led a team that restructured Eskom into different divisions. He was a chairman of Gautrain Social Economic Development (SED) Committee and he wrote SED part of Gautrain Tender documents.
He was a chief negotiator for the Durban City BRT in KwaZulu-Natal and he negotiated with affected taxi associations to become part of the BRT. Also led a group of taxi operators in KZN to Bogota, Pereira, in South America to study BRT and how it can be implemented in South Africa. Negota was also part of a technical team advising affected operators in City of Johannesburg’s BRT Rea-Vaya bus project.
He was the founding member of South African Long Distance Taxi Association. He advised and guided SALDTA (as it is known) into a powerful taxi organization. The birth of SALDTA created an awareness of the need to form a taxi federal structure in which different organisations with the same vision could be housed and hence the founding of NAFTO (National African Federated Transport Organisation). He also guided NAFTO to becoming a powerful umbrella taxi body.
In 2000, he was appointed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport to investigate taxi violence in the industry. He was also appointed to re-organise and raise finance for Great North Transport in Limpopo as well as merge the three development corporations of the three bantustans in the north.
In June 2001, he was appointed to chair the commission of inquiry into the train accident in Tembisa. He also chaired other train accidents inquiries such as the Olifantsfontein train accident; Merafe (Soweto) train accident; Blue Train accident at De Aar and Groot Marico train accident.
Negota started his working life as a labourer for a construction company, before becoming a writer of study materials at Sached. By 1998, he had formed his own legal practice Negota Incorporated Attorneys which he still ran.
A workaholic, Negota served on the following boards and positions at the time of his death: director of N3 Toll Concession, chairperson of Ilizwi Industrial Holdings, Umlamli Healthcare, Tshifhire Timbers and Phalaborwa Copper.
He had previously served on the councils of the Universities of The North and Venda and as president of the Black management Forum (BMF), among many other positions.
Negota leaves behind three children, two sisters and two brothers. He will be laid to rest tomorrow at Ha Ramantsha village, Sinthumule, outside Makhado in Limpopo. The service will start at 6.30 am.