Meet Binvic Africa’s People

I’ve done a fair bit of writing work for BINVIC over the past three years. The most recent assignment included spending some time with each member of the team and writing some short content for the company’s People page. 

BINVIC’s Managing Director, Dennis Keenan,grew up in a construction household and has worked within the sector since 1995. He established BINVIC in South Africa in 2011 and went on to open affiliate companies in Tanzania and Mozambique. He is an ambitious contractor who is proud of BINVIC’s track record of project delivery – consistently on time, on budget and with a sterling safety record. Dennis believes one needs to constantly evolve to remain relevant in this industry, and never be too proud to get back in the field, when the situation demands.

“BINVIC is unique in its approach and its services. We offer niche capabilities, are highly specialised and will project-manage an entire capital project from start to commissioning. A large contributor to our success is the ability to efficiently mobilise and train a local workforce, thereby also contributing to employment and skills development within communities surrounding our contracts. We have worked for multiple international clients and have weathered some tough economic events, nevertheless, our track record reflects our commitment to always delivering the extraordinary.

BINVIC’s Commercial Lead – independent consultant Andrew Muttittfulfils the role of in-house legal counsel and commercial advisor to the company. His scope includes monitoring and advising on contractual issues as well as dispute avoidance and resolution. BINVIC has a reputation for strong client relationships and Andrew plays a key role in establishing a positive relationship between client and contractor. This process is supported by a brainstorming and teambuilding session prior to the project commencing, during which real life scenarios are used as examples of potential for contractual dispute. Early identification of misperceptions of rights and obligations; clarity on contractual terms and conditions of the contract and how it is to be managed (change management, delays, and so forth) helps to avoid unnecessary conflict.

“The strength of a company is in its people and their priorities, as well as their quality. BINVIC has a strong leader and champion in Dennis, one who understands his limitations and will supplement what he lacks by bringing in the correct people where required. It is unusual for a company this size to have a resource such as myself in place – my role is to ensure that we avoid any potential and unnecessary conflicts on contracts and to support BINVIC and its people to prosper.”

BINVIC Project Manager John Flemingan engineering geologist and geologist by trade, has worked as a consultant on both greenfield and brownfield mining projects across Africa. Over the past two decades he has gained exposure to various geological and engineering disciplines, in particular within mining but also within the commercial infrastructure sector. His strong organisational and people management skills have contributed to his reputation for consistency. John joined the BINVIC team in 2017 to work on the Kenmare Resources project in Mozambique.  

“Our on time, within budget and injury-free delivery of the Kenmare Resources project in Mozambique was a highlight both for BINVIC and for its client. I believe the current economic climate offers smaller EPCM companies like BINVIC an opportunity for growth – our agility and ability to mobilise quickly in response to requirements and opportunities, coupled with our sterling record can be an asset to many potential projects.”

Binvic Project Manager Sam van Coller has extensive project management experience gained over twenty-five years, during which he has also been lead planner on many EPCM projects for petrochemical, aluminium and mining clients on the continent. His mantra is to continuously plan throughout a project, thereby supporting a quality end product, delivered in a professional and safe manner, within the agreed time and budget.

 “We are a strong and accomplished multidisciplinary team, each of which brings their own personal strength to the table. We plan and drive for each contract’s successful execution and work hard to establish good relationships with all project stakeholders whiling adding immense value to the professional team. We are persistent about timelines, quality and safety.”

 BINVIC’s Construction Manager, Zorba Georgiou,has overseen countless multidisciplinary construction sites since first entering the industry in 1973. He has managed large workforces that are constantly acknowledged for their commitment to safe operations and completing projects within programme and budget. Zorba describes himself as an unconventional construction manager who manages sites by being visible, giving attention to detail, motivating his teams and being hands-on during the entire project cycle. He lives by the mantra that you can never beat a man that doesn’t know how to give up!

“Our mindset at BINVIC is that of frontiersmen and we are constantly adapting to new operating conditions and looking for fresh opportunities across the continent, no matter how remote. I’m very proud of our successful track record of working in extremely harsh environments; I’m proud of the quality of the work we deliver; and the quality of the teams we employ – in particular the members of the local communities we employ and train to work to the high standards required by the industry and associated with the BINVIC name.”

BINVIC’s Cost Accountant, Riaan Else,has worked in the industry since 2005 and joined BINVIC in 2011. Prior to working in construction, he worked as an auditor and accountant and has always been passionate about the numbers side of business. He believes the unity and strength of the team, the relationships it builds with its clients, its ability to quickly make decisions – financial or technical – are a large part of the company’s winning formula.

“Our curriculum vitae of projects and references from clients is a great testimonial for our abilities. We are fortunate to have worked with, and learned from some of the world’s leading mechanical, civil and chemical engineers with whom we worked on constructing a $90-million dollar mine in Tanzania. Our ambitions include working on many more greenfield projects and continuing to build on this experience.”

BINVIC’s Financial Manager, Samantha Keenan,has been with the company since day one, and played an instrumental role in the administrative side of setting up BINVIC in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As the only woman in the team she brings stability and discipline, lends support where necessary and is often described as the glue that keeps the team together. She describes BINVIC as a close-knit group of people who pull in the same direction and where the family dynamic means that everyone looks out for the other.

“Our reputation is most important to us and we are all about quality. Everything we do – whether on small or large contracts – we aim to do extremely well. We also do not shy away from the responsibility of a large project and I believe that we set a benchmark for our capability while we were working on mining infrastructure projects in Tanzania.”

BINVIC’s Procurement Manager, Brad Whitehead, joined the company in 2017 after having worked in the steel industry for his entire career to date. In addition to fulfilling a procurement and quality assurance role, he also applies his wealth of experience to running the steel supply side of BINVIC. Brad is a service-oriented individual with the ability to negotiate and communicate well, and his attention to detail supports the company’s ability to meet project timelines.

“I have great respect for what we do at BINVIC in the sense that any task we take on, we hold nothing back in order to get it completed. We are each accountable for our actions and do not procrastinate – our philosophy is not to leave something for tomorrow that can be done today. We work within a close-knit yet open-minded environment, which brings out the best in all of us.”

Terra Strata celebrates eight years in business with a CIDB Grade Eight

Terra Strata Construction began operating from founder Shaun Nell’s dining room table at the beginning of 2011, effectively launching the new company into an economic climate that was not deemed conducive to growth. Eight years later, in a competitive geotechnical and marine construction field, Terra Strata has progressed to achieve Construction Industry Development Board gradings of 8CE, 8SC and 7SJ for its various disciplines.

It has, since April 2011, operated out of premises in Modderfontein. The company employees are technically strong and experienced; it owns a fleet of specialist equipment and plant; and its highest annual turnover to date has been R260-million.

A significant portion of Terra Strata’s work is design and construct and it prioritises the impact of existing services, neighbouring structures and access requirements, etc. when tendering to minimize disruptions to the construction programme. The company’s tender philosophy is not to submit a tender unless it is confident that the correct resources – that will enable it to complete and deliver high standards of workmanship in line with its clients’ requirements – will be available at the right time.

“As an organisation we have consistently aimed to complete on, or ahead of time, and plan accordingly,” says managing director Shaun Nell. Some examples of the company’s significant projects, that have been completed ahead of time, include a marine infrastructure project at the Port of East London four months ahead of time; the completion of a 22,5-metre deep basement at 92 Rivonia three weeks ahead of time; and the completion of lateral support (470 000m3) for Sun International’s Times Square Basement two weeks ahead of time.

In addition to its no-nonsense approach Nell believes that the company has built its reputation on its ability to quickly convert problems into solutions and that it will approach clients with options before the timeline is affected.

A number of Terra Strata’s milestone projects, that are testament to the company’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, include:

Port of East London

Terra Strata tendered for TRANSNET’s Port of East London by putting forward a land-based solution for this marine infrastructure project. “We price on what we think is the best solution for the site,” says Nell, “and we identified that we could undertake the full project scope from land, thereby saving the client the cost and complications of bringing in a barge.” TRANSNET’s contract included the removal of an existing 101-metre long capping beam, excavating to a lower platform, as well as the installation of new infrastructure including installing micro piles, tubular piles, sheet piles and ancillary works. This was Terra Strata’s first marine infrastructure project, commenced in June 2015 and was completed four months ahead of programme in January 2018.

Underpinning for the redevelopment of Eastgate Shopping Mall

The additional loading that would be imposed via the construction of new cinemas on top of the existing structure at the Eastgate Shopping Mall meant that the existing piled foundations needed to be strengthened by underpinning. The project included the excavation of two eight metre deep pits in order to access the area beneath the mall, where the underpinning works were to be undertaken. A total of 27 000m3 of material was excavated by means of a remote controlled skid-steer in an area with limited headroom (between 1,4 to 1,8 metres high). This methodology was proposed by Terra Strata at tender stage, and completed using its own equipment that had been adapted in-house.

When the poor conditions at depth became apparent the original plan to drill piles was replaced with the installation of 74 precast 300kN piles using a hydraulic jacking system. The hydraulic jacking system was electronically controlled to record and ensure that uneven forces were not imposed on the existing foundations, which were used to support the jacking.

Time Square

Terra Strata completed the lateral support to Phases 1 and 2 for Sun International’s Time Square in Menlyn. This has been the largest basement contract the company has been involved in to date, with a contract value of R150-million. The scope of work included 471 101m3of bulk excavations; the drilling and installation of 38 555 metres of soil nails; and spraying a 200mm thick, 9 600m2permanent gunite wall. Terra Strata was able to give access to the main contractor on Phase 1 one month early and also completed Phase 2 a few weeks ahead of schedule.

92 Rivonia Road

The 22,5-metre deep basement at 92 Rivonia Road, where Terra Strata installed the lateral support and piling to the basement, is, to date, the deepest basement project undertaken by the contractor. The original design had to be adapted at approximately twelve metres deep when the ground conditions differed from the anticipated tendered conditions. The project was delivered three weeks ahead of time.

Piling at Menlyn Reconfiguration

Terra Strata was contracted to install 1 250 auger piles for the Menlyn Shopping Centre Reconfiguration project. Piles varied from 600 1 200 in diameter. The project was completed within programme and budget, even though access was shared with the main contractor.

Katherine Street – Bus Rapid Transit Bridge

Terra Strata installed the piling for the Katherine Street Bus Rapid Transit bridge where it crosses the M1 highway. Pile testing successfully conducted on this project included a 16 000kN load test, which is approximately the weight of three loaded Airbus A380s. “To our knowledge, this is the biggest pile test conducted in South Africa to date,” says Nell.

During a recession it is difficult to remain a preferred contractor or stand out from the competing contractors when everyone is doing their best to win tenders or negotiate contracts by offering lower prices. “One can be more aggressive when tendering and take more risk to be more competitive, however, you cannot change your basics,” says Nell. “Although current times are trying, we’ve remained positive and resolved at Terra Strata, and apply our common sense – it is much easier to contribute to the industry and the country if you are positive.”

Sharp young minds ignite growth at Sharpshell Engineering

When current CEO Godfrey Pangeti joined Sharpshell as a director in March 2008 the company’s main focus was the provision of industrial solutions, comprising mainly corrosion protection and thermal insulation to mine and process engineers working in the petrochemical and mining sectors.

Pangeti’s strategy for growth included seeking opportunities as a contractor and supplying the full spectrum of engineering services and solutions to clients, including industrial plant protection and the ongoing maintenance of existing infrastructure. A few years later, business development manager Muphrey Kashiri identified fire protection as a further complementary growth sector and today the company operates via three divisions: an engineering division (consulting, design, project management, construction, facility management and maintenance), a fire protection division (passive, active, detection and suppression), and a corrosion protection division (engineering, inspections, sand blasting, tank linings, CUI protection). Its services also include engineering supplies, custom fabrications and installations.

“Our expansion of services and capabilities has ensured our survival and we constantly strategise with regard to new opportunities,” says Pangeti. By focusing on supporting its clients’ production by maintaining existing infrastructure, Sharpshell has been afforded continuous work by many of its clients. “Over the years our reputation, as shutdown specialists with fast turnaround times, has been cemented,” says Pangeti, “and this is supported by our specialist scaffolding and rope access teams.”

Sharpshell’s engineering project portfolio includes engineering design, procurement, construction and project management for SCAW Metals; a maintenance engineering contract for eight national Shell depots for SNC Lavalin; mechanical and civil maintenance contract for various structures at SASOL Secunda; a structural contract for Glencore’s Rustenburg operations; and pipe fabrication for the Glencor Xstrata Boshoek Works Furnace’s Shell Cooling Ring Manifold.

In addition to Sharpshell’s association with the afore-mentioned industry-leading clients, this B-BBEE Level 2, majority black-woman-owned company has also undertaken a large number of turnkey projects for clients that require its engineering capabilities, as well as its fire and corrosion protection services.

Its customer-specific corrosion protection solution projects include the 2018 Petrosa shutdown during which Sharpshell managed a team of 250 painters, insulators and sheet metal workers; a three-year specialised coatings contract for Petrosa vessel lining with special glass flake coatings; a corrosion protection and tank lining project for Freda Rebecca Gold Mine; Shell Depots Storage tank lining projects; and corrosion protection for Glencore’s Boshoek Works structures that were under severe acid attacks.

Sharpshell’s Fire Protection division offers its clients a comprehensive fire protection and suppressant solution and the company has actively been seeking opportunities in both the commercial and residential property sectors. The division has undertaken projects in South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Zambia. Recent South African projects include structural beam fire protection for a number of Growth Point Property malls, as well as for the Bay West Mall in Port Elizabeth (structural beams and columns as well as electric cable fire protection).

Sharpshell Engineering joined the Stefanutti Stocks enterprise development programme in 2018, as a partner to the Stefanutti Stocks Civils division. Each financial year three development areas, that support the enterprise development partner’s sustainability and growth, are identified and targeted. For Sharpshell these three areas include two that fall under legal compliance – namely CIDB and the QSE B-BBEE certificate, as well as the development of marketing and branding materials, including a website that went live in August 2019.

“Our vision for the business is to create capacity and compliance that will enable us to work on the bigger projects, that will take Sharpshell from a medium-sized business to the next level,” says Pangeti. “Unfortunately, the economy is limiting our growth opportunities, however, we hope that being part of Stefanutti Stocks’ enterprise development programme will also unlock opportunities that we have not yet explored.”

Iron lady finishes East London’s 70.3 Ironman on a high note

On the 29 January 2017 I completed the Ironman 70.3 East London in a total time of 08:20:57. This, after only four months of gruelling and committed training, a knee cap that kept dislocating, many visits to my physiotherapist, and a lot of encouragement from friends, family and my fiancé.

Prior to the race I had participated in only a few cycle races, attempted to run no further than five kms and done one or two short open water swims. I was anything but an Ironman athlete, and in reality I had only taken up sports of any kind a mere three years ago – before that I considered scrap booking a sport.

On race day we were up before 4am, had breakfast, checked the last few things and headed down to the start line. My best friend and I completed the ocean swim together – we free-styled the full 1.9kms, chatted occasionally and were pretty much having the best swim of our lives. I loved every minute of it.

Next came the cycling event and the notorious East London winds were out in full force and it was baking hot. I came in from the cycling event 56 seconds before the cut-off, badly sunburnt, tired, and hating every second of my life.

As I headed out to start the 21.1km run I came to the conclusion that I was over all of it. About three kms in my fiancé and dad appeared and their encouragement convinced me to try a little harder. The next 16 kms were an emotional roller-coaster – I cried, I laughed, I sang, I screamed and somewhere along the way started enjoying the race again. My bum knee kept me from running, but an old granny style speed walk was doing the trick.

As I got closer to the red carpet many of the other athletes, supporters and my friends and family started clapping and screaming my name. It is hard to describe the moment that I crossed the time line, turned around and saw my time on the board – I had made it. I had finished the East London Ironman 70.3 with only a few minutes to spare!

Gabriella Hanna champions the pebble effect

A few years ago, I was feeling quite down about how little of an impact I was making in the bigger scheme of things – such a large portion of the population is in need of assistance. I felt that the best I was doing was facilitating a few apprenticeships a year or handing over a packet of sanitary towels or snack packs at schools. It was during this time that my manager, Sharene Koopman, told me that even though my circle of influence is small, I may inspire someone in that circle to go out and do something in their community … and through that they might inspire someone else, and so on. This is what I now call the pebble effect.

During this year, I’ve been given many opportunities through my job to throw out a pebble. I’ve always been involved in socio-economic development on a small scale, as well as skills development through our apprenticeship programme. However, this year saw me champion two big socio-economic development initiatives – our Vision 4 Change and our volunteer planting Mandela Day initiative in association with Food & Trees for Africa. I don’t think our impact here is measurable – as who knows what the kids at the school, who can now see the blackboard clearly, will one day become and the influence they will have? The same applies for our Mandela Day initiative – which saw us plant food gardens, trees for shade and fruit, as well as create some employment opportunities for community members.

The paper work and admin that forms part of my every day routine is a necessary evil, and of course I’m happy to do that. However, the rewarding part of my work is to work together with people who are incredibly motivated to succeed – this applies to my apprenticeships, the school principals I have met recently, as well as to my enterprise development partners. If there is one thing I strive for every day, it is that people will see the value in what we are doing in our transformation initiatives and be swept along with the passion I feel for all of my projects.

When enterprise development is done right and with the correct intention, I believe it can add so much value to the emerging enterprise. I’m currently working with Isiyalu Manufacturing and Retailing, an enterprise development partner to the Mechanical & Electrical business unit. The business founder, William Dhlongolo, formed a women’s manufacturing co-operative and is incredibly driven to do right by the fifty-two employees that work for Isiyalu. He recognizes the impact our involvement can have on the growth of the business and the people employed by it, and is excited by the prospects.

My job also entails building relationships with the people I now feel responsible for. I visit my apprentices once a month to deliver their pay slips and to touch base on how they are doing. And I am so incredibly proud when they do well – ten of them passed their trade tests just this year! I’ve also been given the opportunity by our development director Charles Wright to become involved in other school projects, where we can be instrumental in changing the shocking state of the existing infrastructure in three Limpopo schools. It’s a fact that by creating a hygienic, clean and conducive learning environment or through ensuring learners have a square meal a day, it will have an impact on their performance at school. Don’t get me started, as I’m very passionate on this subject matter.

I think that, as Sharene explained to me, we’ll never fully know what will happen because of the pebbles we throw out, but it’s an encouraging thought to know that they will almost certainly create a ripple eff ect. And because I’m so invested in the transformation journey of my ‘projects’ I hope to continue seeing some positive results.

(This was written for an in-house sustainability report after a two-hour car journey with Gaby)

Stefanutti Stocks team finishes eleventh in KAP sani2c Race

The 2019 KAP sani2c Race is the largest mountain bike stage race in the world, with three versions of the event running over five days in May. This year Hendrik Bester, site surveyor at Stefanutti Stocks Building KZN and his brother, Burger, wore the Stefanutti Stocks colours as they participated in the 265-kilometre-long race starting in the majestic mountains of Sani Pass, through the Southern Drakensberg, and on to the South Coast shores at Scottburgh Beach.

The brothers did the company proud by finishing eleventh overall, in a field of 858 finishers who participated in The Race, from 16- 18 May this year. “The weather was perfect, and conditions were great for some fast and furious racing,” says Bester. “Admittedly, after seeing the starting line-up we thought it would be a huge task to attain our race goal of getting on the podium as veteran men but we focused on our own riding and the factors that we could control, such as cleaning our bikes, staying well-hydrated, eating and resting after finishing a stage.”

Stage one was a total of 82.3 kilometres long with an elevation gain of 1 476 metres. The team finished this stage in three hours and seven minutes, thirteenth overall and was the fourth veteran team.

Stage two saw the brothers complete the 92.45 kilometres and 1 925 metres of elevation gain in three hours and fifty-three minutes. They finished thirteen overall and fourth vets’ team again but were now third vets overall as stage one’s third vet team had lost about forty minutes due to punctures.

The third and final stage (85.3km and 1 120 elevation gain) saw the team pushing hard to finish in three hours and one minute – four minutes ahead of their direct competition, and fast enough to stay in third position in the veteran’s category. “We completed the two-hundred-and sixty-five-kilometre race in a total of ten hours and two minutes and are elated with our third place in the veteran’s category and 11th place overall,” says Bester. “We had a great race, we pushed each other like only brothers can do, and everything worked out well. I am really thankful for the support from our family, friends as well as all of my colleagues!”

What a ride joBerg2c turned out to be!

The joBerg2C was a truly amazing experience! I teamed up with Jako van Heerden (from Kantey & Templer) from Kloof to ride in the vet men’s category of the Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race. We set out on the nine-day mountain bike adventure with the aim of getting onto the vets podium.

Stage 1 started on Friday 21 April at Karan Beef, just outside Heidelberg. It was a relatively uneventful, neutral stage of 113km cycled to Frankfort. During stages 2 and 3, from Frankfort to Reitz (89km) and Reitz to Sterkfontein Dam (125km), we experienced a few mechanical issues which unfortunately cost us some time. We found ourselves placed seventh in the vets category, but after finishing 13th overall, and as the first vet team in stage 4, which took us from Sterkfontein Dam to Em’seni, our hopes were up! Stage 5 was a long, tough ride from Em’seni to Nottingham Road and we covered the gruelling 120km in 5 hours and 11 minutes.

After placing 14th overall and finishing as first vets team in stage 6 we were feeling strong and motivated going into the last two racing stages. Fifty kilometre into stage 7 and, while leading the vets, Jako had a bad fall. After spending some time with the medics we finished 40 minutes behind the first vet team. Jako was determined to push through the pain and we finished stage 8 in a rather slow 5 hours 44 minutes. Jako’s broken left hand was operated on, on the Saturday that followed the race. Fortunately his knee was not as bad as we first thought. After all of this drama, the two of us still placed as 8th vet team and 31st overall. Over the nine days of the race we had spent 40 hours and 7 minutes in the saddle covering approximately 900km. It was an incredible race, and something I would highly recommend for every passionate mountain biker!

Sadly, it’s all over now, and I am not sure how I am going to settle back into ‘normal’ life again.

I used to be…

There are in fact many things that I used to be … probably as many things as I still am and as I will be. The fact that I no longer fly, doesn’t make my life any less rich. The real friendships I’ve made through flying have survived my divorce from this pursuit, and I do love catching up with people on a mountain. I’m probably one of the best recovery drivers you’d be lucky enough to have, however getting my nose out of a book and looking at a GPS may be a challenge. My name is Chrissi, and I used to be…

I used to be the SAHPA Chairperson. I lasted one year, after which I walked away. With the wisdom of hindsight, I must admit that I really admire people who put themselves forward to serve on the committee, particularly people who serve for longer than a year.

It was without a doubt the worst year of my life (let’s name it “The Small Depression”) and one which I embarked on voluntarily despite being pre-warned by a prior chairperson that it had been an incredible tough tenure for him. As they say: pride comes before a fall. I didn’t realise at what cost the delivery of this voluntary position would come. I don’t really think that much can prepare you for the total onslaught of new experiences (few of which are pleasant) that accompany serving SAHPA. My personal life suffered. My business suffered. My health suffered.

That year started with a bang, when a few weeks in a judge in Cape Town ruled (on an almost decade long case) that tandem paragliding for reward was illegal. After a few visits to our lawyers, we were advised to ground tandem operations (unsuccessfully) until we had lodged our appeal. It was a confusing time for many – unfortunately I was the one in the firing line. I had no prior exposure to the land of law, never mind the reams of the law of the air. There were key individuals who tried hard to support me, however, I needed knowledge to make decisions, so was playing catch up a large part of the time. Add to that the different voices and many warnings against various individuals and their “dubious ulterior motives”, and it was all a stark reminder of why I had left the corporate world to pursue freelancing.

Things may have changed, but like I said, I used to be… Back then an imbalance or tension had always existed between commercial and private within the ARO (Aviation Recreation Organisation). At one stage it seemed that the only solution to ensuring that commercial tandems were legal (as many people’s livelihoods depended on being able to fly tandems) was to make our ARO the ATO (Aviation Training Organisation). I came so close to taking this step, when a casual remark by a CIA representative, about how much responsibility this entailed, stopped me in my tracks. I decided it was a good idea to understand exactly what he meant, and to my horror discovered that as a director (voluntary or not) of a non-profit, and as SAHPA Chairperson, I would ultimately be responsible for all activities that occurred under the ATO. This was the one thing that no one had whispered in my naïve ears, and it was quite a wakeup call. In addition to a few more sleepless nights, I tried my best, together with the committee, to come up with ways in which we could ensure that we met our duty of care as directors of the ARO. One of a number of initiatives that came out of that chaotic time, was the In the Loop newsletter – and I can’t say that a little part of me isn’t flattered that it has been resurrected as a communication tool.

Other things I struggled with during the “The Small Depression” was that I could not understand why many tandem operators across the country were not interested in creating a sustainable platform for their businesses. Other challenges included getting our MOP rewritten into an acceptable format, then getting it approved by the members and then by RAASA. My committee and a few stand-up members were instrumental in getting this process going, however, the MOP was only signed off by RAASA in the following year thanks to Jon and his committee.

In terms of people, there were some real diamonds who got me through, both from within the organisation, as well as from outside. To be honest, I didn’t really struggle with any of the personalities or characters in and around the sport, but I did observe a lot of unnecessary, sometimes ugly disputes.

I struggled with making the time to run my business, as well as trying to meet my minimum standards of quality (in both my “jobs”). I really prayed hard that there would be no major injuries or fatalities during my time as Chairperson. Unfortunately, this was not to be, and the sport claimed two PPG pilots, and a young PG pilot.

Did I make a difference? Was it possible to even make a difference in a year? I don’t think so, and I do not really know. What I do know is, if faced with the choice of being SAHPA Chairperson for a year versus jumping out of a balloon, the prospect of 365 consecutive roll overs wins hands down.

I used to fly. And overall, I must admit that I loved it. It was the place I could escape to, a place to feel free, to just be and to lose time without wasting it. I’m not talking about the time lost sitting on the mountain waiting for the wind to be just perfect (which it seldom is). I’m talking about the time between take-off and landing where I wasn’t really conscious of my surroundings other than my fellow pilots, Mother Nature and staying up for as long as I could. It was a time I would be free from “real life” problems like deadlines, load shedding, infrastructure decay, work challenges, politics, relationship issues, poverty, racism, land reclamation … It was a time during which I chose to enjoy the privilege of free flight.

While I was still an active pilot, I tried to fly as much as I could, however, I have always considered myself to be a bit of a hobbyist who attended as many competitions as possible to make use of the infrastructure, and to increase the circle of flying friends. I was fortunate to travel quite a bit, have flown at a number of beautiful sites and met some great people in near and faraway places. Paragliding opened up an entire new world to me, including one where injury and death was a relatively common occurrence.

Sometimes I would surprise myself (and probably a few others) with a great flight, and there was a time I was more confident, especially while I was very current. I believe a bit of talent and some intuition, rather than the clever use of any science, got me from place to place. There were times that I was perfectly content in the air, and times that I was extremely anxious – more so about the conditions I was in, than the fact that I needed to find lift. There were times I would thank God for the incredible experience, and other times that I would promise Him that I would do or give up anything if he would just guarantee my safe return to Earth.

I used to be a licenced member of SAHPA. I say used to, because I neglected to let the thing be the thing. My flying wasn’t about flying anymore and there were too many distractions. It had become about serving the community, helping to organise competitions, raise sponsorship, write things, organise charity events, do this … do that … and my crippling sense of duty literally crippled my love of the activity and I walked away.

Notwithstanding I have and cherish some amazing flying memories. Maybe those are enough to see me through to retirement. Maybe they are not. Only God knows.

Note: This was written for the SAHPA March 2019 newsletter ‘In the Loop’. It is an unusually sombre (for me) piece of writing, so if you’d like to read a bit more about fun and real flying there are three articles here that may be more appealing.

 

 

 

Hakito’s Story

HAKITO BRAND COPY:

Every parent will tell you that his or her child is truly amazing. Many parents will tell you that they want to encourage their children to grow up to be creative individuals, free thinkers and successful at whatever they choose to do. All parents are known to brag about their little one’s latest achievement and most parents will go the extra mile to encourage the development of their kids from an early age.

While looking for a suitable birthday present for our two-year old son (who is of course truly amazing) we came across the established Swedish brand BRIO, that has been “sparking young minds since 1884”. We were so taken by their range of products, that we decided to become South African online resellers for these, and other ranges of wooden toys.

Our name

Our two-year old struggles to articulate the word Pinocchio, probably one of the most famous wooden toys to date, and like many wonderful nicknames that come out of early childhood, the unique name he has given this iconic toy is ‘Hakito’. We felt it was a fitting name for a store that sells quality wooden toys, plus it will be a good story to tell at his 21st birthday, when he takes over the family empire… or perhaps at his wedding.

An extract of Hakito’s story, written for company founder Waldo Minny.

Terence’s Trilby

CHARACTERISATION OF A HAT:

It was showing obvious signs of aging and had grown pale and wan since the first time it had proudly perused the streets of Sophiatown from just under two-metres up. In spite of its appearance, and twenty years after its first outing, the trilby still exuded this self-same confidence when perched atop Terence’s head.

Its dark felt was no longer as soft as it had been on the first day it had experienced the thrill of the fresh, cold, winter-morning air on its crown. A deep inhalation of its well worn shape invoked the memories of a life well-lived. Its narrow brim, now faded and worn, had been imprinted with the tips of its owners’ fingers – constantly seeking, constantly worrying, constantly wanting assurances.

As if on cue, Terence smoothly took the trilby’s rim between thumb and forefinger, seeking its approval of what he was about to do. He was in fact seeking the assurance and approval of the original wearer, a man who had placed this self-same trilby on Terence’s youthful head, tweaked his chubby cheeks and promised him, that one day, with the help of this magic trilby, he would conquer the world.

He had seen the man only once, on the day that his life had changed forever. As he had stood on the dusty streets of Meadowlands, Terence had believed that man’s promise, and gratefully accepted his gift. His fierce determination to conquer the world had seen the trilby take on its own unique sense of being and place in his life.

Today, proud as a peacock and with the knowledge that it was a lifer, the twenty-year old’s jaunty attitude put paid to any thoughts that it was a has-been. It was a proud symbol of how one small action by a passer-by, could change the path of a young South African with seemingly no prospects.

But its job was not done yet.

Ten

CREATIVE WRITING SAMPLE:

Beth stared at her toes. There were still ten of them down there, all neatly parked in her pink flip-flops. Just like there were still ten people up ahead of her, haphazardly distributed in what resembled a queue. She tilted her head slightly, squinting at the clock on the peeling wall and decided she’d give it another ten minutes.

600 seconds, 599 seconds, 598, 597, 596… If her handbag hadn’t been stolen, she’d be having cocktails on the beach with that gorgeous Swede they’d met clubbing last night. Instead, she was trapped here in the police station, another victim of what she had heard termed a false island-sense of security. 488, 487, 486…

She didn’t mind the handbag, there wasn’t really much in it, apart from her passport. Even that wasn’t a crisis, as she was here for months to come. However, her host family had insisted she report it immediately. So here she was. 402 seconds, 401, 400…

On the up side, at least she was out of the sweltering heat, although the stifling veneer of law and order was certainly not her first choice of escape. She sighed and shifted her weight onto her left foot. 350 seconds, 349, 348… Using the lid of the pen she’d just used to fill in her statement, she bent her elbow behind her back to scratch her peeling skin. She looked at the people ahead and idly wondered what ill fate had brought them here too.

Dibuseng Mokoena plans to drive change

Twenty-seven-year-old Dibuseng Mokoena has worked for Stefanutti Stocks Mining Services for four years, most recently as the production manager at the Chilwavhusiku Colliery in Bronkhorstpruit. The colliery, that is owned by Black Royalty Minerals, became fully operational towards the end of 2017, and supplies coal to customers within South Africa, as well as serving the export market. The team running the site is a young team, comprising approximately sixty per cent of females, and overseen by contracts manager Graham Ralph, who is one of Mokoena’s mentors. She is currently also mentored by Marco Pasquali Stefanutti Stocks Mining Services’ contracts director responsible for tailings disposal and material handling.

Mokoena, who completed her Mining Engineering degree at Wits in 2014, joined Stefanutti Stocks as a site engineer halfway through 2015. The timing was perfect as in 2016 Ian Ferguson, managing director of the group’s Mining Services division, introduced a two-year internship programme for mining graduates. Since joining the programme she has worked as a site engineer at the Kangala mine, where she also worked shifts as a production foreman, a pit supervisor and a production manager, shadowing the contracts manager. Since November 2017 she has been the production manager at Chilwavhusiku Colliery, and part of the team that have worked on building a greenfield site into a successful open-pit coal mine.

What have some of your career highlights been thus far?

“After having cold-called and sent my CV to every potential employer across a number of provinces, being called for an interview and getting a job at Stefanutti Stocks was certainly one of the most exciting days of my life. 

“Since then other highlights included getting my blasting ticket and being appointed as a production manager. Also, the process of winning over our client’s confi dence, when we moved from being a month behind on production to being ahead, and consistently exceeding Black Royalty Mineral’s targets ever since.

“Another highlight is working with and learning from Graham Ralph, who keeps encouraging me to think beyond what I have learned in my text books. Seeing the mine through his more experienced eyes has really brought it, and all of its components, to life.”

What is the most important aspect of your job?

“The planning process and then simplifying and clarifying the vision, so that everyone on the production team buys in. An important, and exciting aspect of my work is the interaction with people – I want to leave them better off than I have found them. This can mean leaving them with more knowledge or insight into our reason for doing things in a certain way, or better equipped to do their work more effi ciently. It’s also important to make sure that the right people are in the right positions and can contribute to our overall goal.

“A win for one is a win for all and within our site team we allow room for people to voice their ideas, and suggestions for how we can do things better. As a tight-knit team we also know that when challenged (by rain or when our client increases the targets) we can count on one another to execute the work.”

What is your favourite part of the day at work?

“Defi nitely the time we spend in the pit or at the viewpoint, where we can get a good snapshot of the operation to see if our production is going according to plan, if our people are taking care of our machines, and how everybody is interacting.”

Do you see your working within the construction industry as a unique occurrence?

“I think women in construction bring a breath of fresh air. Every individual is diff erent, and all families have their quirks. Here I am in a family that embraces me. Sometimes it does take a bit of adjusting to be comfortable, but I don’t have a problem with that. I am also very aware of perceptions, i.e. how people see one another, and how one should pitch oneself in a certain environment. I’ve been reading a lot of books on the subject.”

Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

“I attended a Women in Mining Counsel recently and a representative from SASOL shared an interesting anecdote about riding an elevator. Whatever fl oor you’re on, don’t forget to press the Ground Level for the elevator to go back down: wherever, and in whatever position you find yourself in during your career, you need to see who you can motivate or mentor – and I’d like to do that.

“In terms of position wise, the Dibuseng of three years ago would have said she wants to be a director, or the fi rst woman occupying a specific position in a company. Of course, I’d like to be a trail blazer, but while titles grow people, they can also constrain them.

“I’m not an inventor but I do have vision, and I’ve learned that if you give me something to make better, something that I can optimise – that is where I am most valuable. I also think that is why I gel with Graham, as this is his forte. The element of change that we have brought here on this site has made me realise that we have the ability to do so much to influence and improve operations.

“So, whatever position I will be in, in fi ve or ten years’ time, I will need to be able to infl uence change and to optimise it. I would like to be part a part of THAT team, call it the strategic planning team: the one that is driving change.”

Axsys Projects aspires to growth in challenging economic climate

The relationship between Stefanutti Stocks and black-woman owned construction company Axsys Projects began in 2012, just one year after Halga Ninow-Cohen established the company in 2011. After five years of being a strategic enterprise development (ED) partner, Axsys then moved out of the ED programme in 2017, into the Voluntary Rebuild Programme (VRP) to become a VRP partner to Stefanutti Stocks.

Projects

The relationship continues to grow from strength-to-strength, and 2018 has seen the two companies working together on a number of contracts – within the mining, the building and the civils sphere. In addition to working with various Stefanutti Stocks divisions in joint venture, Axsys has tendered for, and been awarded, a number of projects in its own right, including remedial work at thirty-one healthcare facilities in the Northern Cape’s ZF Mgcawu region.

“Currently, there are not many projects coming to market, and we’re really hoping that some of the contracts we have tendered for will be awarded soon,” says Geoff Thompson, managing director of Axsys Projects. “At the moment we are working on approximately ten projects – almost double what we had in 2017. Our site staff has grown in accordance with the demand on our projects, and we are pleased to have a number of experienced industry professionals on our payroll.”

Among a number of projects being undertaken in joint venture with Stefanutti Stocks Building KZN is the contract for the construction of the new Nedbank Park Square – a mixed-use development for Nedport Developments in Umhlanga. This was the first project acquired in joint venture with Stefanutti Stocks Building KZN and was also the first project awarded after joining the VRP.

Further joint ventures with Stefanutti Stocks Building KZN and emerging contractor Botani include three projects for Mercedes Benz South Africa (MBSA) in East London – an ASRS Sorter project as well as two other design and construction projects:

  • Building 34’s Logistics Building – comprising the demolition and removal of an existing building and its infrastructure, and the construction of a new 16 800m2 logistics building and associated infrastructure.
  • J-site logistics Building – comprising the construction of a new logistics building with both good accessibility for suppliers and a good connection to the assembly plant. Also forming part of the project are a new “Gate 2” entrance with external facilities.

A further project at MBSA’s East London site includes the design and construct contract for the MBSA Body Shop, awarded to a joint venture between Stefanutti Stocks Building KZN, Axsys Projects and Simunye. The project entails repurposing the existing approximately 27 000mlogistic building and bodyshop (F4) and comprises the demolition and relocation of existing buildings as well as the construction of a two-level extension covering a 45 700marea and connecting to the existing F4 building.

Axsys Projects is undertaking a number of mining contracts, in addition to the building projects. One of these is a joint venture with the Roads, Pipelines & Earthworks division which includes earthworks for four pollution-control dams at the Klipspruit Colliery in Ogies, Mpumalanga. A further mining sector joint venture, with Stefanutti Stocks Civils, is the civil construction of the GG6 substation buildings for Exxaro in Lephalale. “Our project portfolio is diverse and sees us working side-by-side with many Stefanutti Stocks stalwarts,” says Thompson. “The kind of projects we are participating in also makes us an attractive employer, for both experienced workers and newcomers to the industry.”

Highlights

A highlight during 2018 included the celebration of the company’s first year in its new offices in Protec Park. A further milestone saw Stefanutti Stocks procure twenty per cent shareholding in Axsys Projects.

Axsys people

The company’s support services team is small with additional forty site-based staff on the company’s payroll. “It would be fantastic if we could double this number in a year’s time and celebrate our second birthday alongside a healthy spurt of growth,” concludes Thompson.

 

A move from professional rugby to Qweli Construction

Eugene Maqwelana and Kobus Marx first met when a then nineteen-year-old Maqwelana did some holiday work for Marx Electrical – a family-owned, Paarl-based business established in 1969. The two became firm friends, and after completing his studies Marx went into the family business, while Maqwelana pursued a career as a professional rugby player … as well as studying theology, a short stint in public administration, shipping and other entrepreneurial pursuits. Maqwelana was (and still remains) very actively involved in community initiatives, using his contacts and talent as a networker to bring initiatives and funders together, to create impactful and sustainable interventions.

In January 2013 Magwelana registered his own construction company, Qweli Construction, focusing mainly on building work such as design, renovations, painting, roofing and road works, and mainly operating as a subcontractor to other local construction companies. Shortly thereafter he procured his friend’s business, Marx Electrical. Instead of immediately merging the business into his construction firm, the two friends decided to build the Qweli brand alongside Marx’s almost fi ve-decade legacy, until Qweli becomes a better-known name in the construction industry.

“We started operating as ‘Qweli Construction trading as Marx Electrical’, as we didn’t want to lose Marx’s brand equity,” says Eugene Maqwelana, managing director of Qweli Construction, “and while our main work has come from the electrical side, we are now trying to grow the building arm of the business.”

In July 2018 Qweli Construction joined Stefanutti Stocks’ enterprise development programme. Following a needs analysis, three development areas were identifi ed for the first year of the relationship, which will see Stefanutti Stocks assisting Qweli to register for its CIDB grading, formalising and writing a business plan, as well as some brand development initiatives.

“Among some of the challenges smaller construction businesses face within the Western Cape is the difficulty to obtain work as subcontractors, as many large companies – though they complain that it is diffi cult to find quality subcontractors – often don’t give the ‘new kid on the block’ the opportunity to prove themselves,” explains Maqwelana. “My hope for our enterprise development partnership is that we will be able to step up our approach towards gaining new business, be exposed to new opportunities and get given the chance to prove ourselves within a broader environment.”

Currently Qweli Construction off ers the following services: 

Electrical installations:

  • Electrical construction & reticulation
  • Mini sub stations
  • MV work
  • Alarms
  • Fire alarms
  • Intercoms
  • Generators
  • Solar installation

Construction services:

  • Design
  • Renovations
  • Painting
  • Roofing

Corporate Social Investment

Engaging with the community has always been a passion of Maqwelana’s, who has been integrally involved with his communities throughout his life and career. In addition to having founded a football team (the Battalions Football Club) and convincing Clive Barker to coach them, he is also the founder and chairperson of the Mbekweni Youth Centre, as well as being actively involved in mentoring young men in his communities.

In terms of his hopes and aspirations for his construction company, Maqwelana explains that he is not necessarily driven by turnover. “For me, the next level is developing a vision of where it is we’d like to see ourselves, put structures and a good support team in place, have a base and an offi ce, and procure contracts that will allow us to prove our capability to deliver quality projects to happy clients. I believe that if Qweli Construction provides quality work, the turnover will come.”

Investment in black woman-owned cooperative IsiYalu to increase manufacturing capacity

IsiYalu Manufacturing and Retailing Primary Cooperative is a community cooperative that manufactures industrial, corporate wear and sports active wear, as well as offering promotional branding and marketing services to its clients. The cooperative is seventy per cent black woman owned and employs fifty two individuals, forty-five of whom are women. The cooperative became part of Stefanutti Stocks’ enterprise development (ED) programme in mid-2018, with the construction group undertaking to assist IsiYalu with its expansion plans, as well as to provide some marketing support to assist with further growth.

The cooperative was originally founded by William Dhlongolo, fuelled by his desire to create a family legacy which he felt would not be possible in his role as a marketing services manager for a Johannesburg-based corporate. The seed to create a manufacturing business was planted when he was presented with an invoice for a golf shirt which he felt was unreasonably priced. He was sure that other corporates must feel the same way and decided to try his hand at offering this type of service, at a reasonable and honest rate.

He started IsiYalu in 2009 with only eight people and based on the concept of enabling struggling families to become self-sustaining. “My own family has experienced its fair share of trials and tribulations and I was motivated to build this business into one that could work for me, while at the same time empowering my family and others to be self-sustaining,” says Dhlongolo.

The concept worked and, as the company grew, more families joined the cooperative until eventually IsiYalu was supporting forty-five families. This growth was driven by talented people whose skills were being developed and who believed in uncompromised customer service – a combination that resulted in both personal and business development. IsiYalu’s reputation for integrity and innovation grew, orders kept coming in, and the company began adding complementary services to its portfolio. This included its secondary business of branding applications that off ers a state-of-the-art embroidery plant, screen printing and print sublimation. The company soon began outgrowing its premises and, a year ago, IsiYalu’s landlord agreed to rent the manufacturer more space, on the same fl oor. However, at the time it lacked the capital to invest in realising its expansion plans.

“Our manufacturing capacity reached a ceiling, and we started having to say ‘no’ to work, as we do not have the infrastructure and space to accommodate more machines or more employees. When the work is there, but you are loathe to take it all in, it is a very frustrating position to be in, as you don’t want to risk disappointing your clients by a slower turnaround,” says Dhlongolo.

IsiYalu manufactures a range of quality garments, and has established itself within the industrial PPE workwear (personal protective equipment) industry where fabrics and textiles are meant to protect the wearer, as well as conform to certain quality and safety requirements.

On average IsiYalu completes about two-thousand-eight-hundred overalls monthly for clients including Bidvest, KAEFER Energy & Thermal, BNM SA, VOITH SA, De Beers, Discovery Health and Stefanutti Stocks.

“We would be delighted to become one of the Stefanutti Stocks group’s preferred suppliers, and have designed a customised overall that is comfortable and industry compliant, and one we know will fulfi l all of the company’s SHEQ requirements,” says Dhlongolo. 

Stefanutti Stocks’ contribution to IsiYalu’s development has seen the production of a corporate video showcasing its manufacturing capability. It has also purchased a 7.8-metre fold-up cutting table, that will halve the manufacturers current cutting time. The factory expansion project will see the factory capacity grow by onehundred-and-seventy square metres, and will include a reception and showroom area, offi ce space, a break area for employees and more room for manufacturing activities. The construction project is being undertaken by PAMCO, also one of Stefanutti Stocks’ ED partners, that has been part of the group’s programme since late 2015.

“We have set ourselves a vision to grow the business by a further fourteen employees by the end of 2019, and I believe that, through Stefanutti Stocks’ funding and support, this is possible” says Dhlongolo. “In addition to enhancing our own capacity, production and throughput, there is also the indirect benefi t to our supply chain, as fourteen small- to medium-sized enterprises will be also be positively impacted. 

“Meeting up with and partnering with Stefanutti Stocks has been inspiring and, above all, has reignited my team’s morale.”

Championing transformation in the Kingdom of Eswatini

In 2018 Stefanutti Stocks Construction Swaziland celebrated its thirtieth year in the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland). In the years leading up to this milestone, the company has also been working hard to ensure that its journey will continue well into the next decade and beyond. “In addition to continuing to deliver a high-quality product, a sustainable future for our company and our people requires that we continually look for ways to empower our stakeholders – in particular those that are Eswatini nationals, who understand the company, the industry, the country and our respective cultures,” says Shaun White, Stefanutti Stocks Construction Swaziland’s managing director.

A Transformation Committee (comprising six individuals who hold key managerial positions) champions, amongst other things, new business development and procurement of contracts, as well as succession planning, with a focus on investing in its people. “A large part of the next generation’s learning curve is the opportunity to consult and share ideas with senior colleagues, while at the same time being consulted to contribute to the growth of the company and gain exposure to the business world, outside of the construction site,” adds White.

A number of qualifi ed individuals have been placed in managerial positions and the company is investing in them to ensure that they are well equipped to become the future leaders of the business. These individuals include contracts manager Velaphi Mabila, who joined in 2003 as a labourer while completing his engineering diploma at the Swaziland College of Technology; estimator Sonnyboy Nhleko, who joined as a site engineer in 2008; and site agent Nomcebo Mamba who joined in 2014. Nomcebo is the first female site agent in the company and is running very prestigious projects for the business. Thandiwe Hlatshwayo joined the company in 2013 as HR manager and was promoted to HR director in 2016. “Our people are without a doubt the greatest asset we have, and various skills and training development initiatives are ensuring that they have the resources and capability required to perform their duties. This is extended across all levels of our operations – from site to support services – to ensure the sustainability of our business and support our succession planning,” says Thandiwe Hlatshwayo, Stefanutti Stocks Construction Swaziland HR director.

The company offers internal and external training on topics and subject matter relevant to the construction industry, as well as programmes that meet both employer and employees’ needs. Training encompasses diplomas, degrees, accredited courses, National Qualifications Framework and other programmes, as well as site-based training covering essential safety and operational procedures, including fi rst-aid training, fi refi ghting, scaffold erector and inspector training, working at heights, and hazardous chemical substance control.

Bursaries

In 2018 fifteen employees and one high school student have bursaries from Stefanutti Stocks Construction Swaziland – their fields of study include Bachelor of Technology (B-Tech), Accountancy, the Construction Management Programme (CMP) as well as various NQF programmes. Bursars include a number of foremen and section leaders, as well as Welile Vilakati, who is currently studying to be a chartered accountant, and contracts manager Velaphi Mabila, who attended the 2018 Construction Management Programme (CMP) at the Stellenbosch University National Qualification Framework (NQF)

A highlight of the company’s NQF initiative is the recognition of hidden talent amongst the hourly-paid employees. In recent years a number of foremen and section leaders have been enrolled in the NQF programme, and in 2018 fi ve section leaders graduated with their NQF 4. “We are extremely proud of their achievements – both in the classroom and on site,” says Hlatshwayo.

Apprenticeships

Two apprentices from Eswatini, Mduduzi Zwane and Norman Gamedze, completed their apprenticeship training in South Africa and are now qualified mechanics, working at the Matsapha-based plant yard.

Site-based training

The company’s site-based training mainly covers safety and operational procedures essential for working on a construction site. In August 2018, the Ungendluli (“Don’t Walk Past”) safety campaign was launched and as part of the launch week Stefanutti Stocks’ Mr Zee (which stands for Zero Harm) travelled to a number of sites across Eswatini, performing industrial theatre and engaging the work force to embrace the safety principles.

Staff welfare

Every year, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the AIDS Health Care Foundation, Stefanutti Stocks conducts voluntary and confidential testing for all employees for HIV, diabetes, tuberculosis and blood pressure. A prostate cancer awareness drive, with assistance from the Ministry of Health, was introduced in 2014.

Socio-economic development

“Having a heart for the community has always been an intuitive part of our culture, and one that we embrace, without always highlighting our involvement,” says Hlatshwayo. The company tries to engage in as many local initiatives as possible – this support takes on various forms, such as meeting the basic needs of the communities within which the business operates; partnerships with authorities (such as with the Royal Eswatini Police in the successful launch of the Matsapha Schools Anti-Crime Club Workshop); or contributions to multiple sports events or teams, more recently the sponsorship of trophies for the Ministry of Health Wellness Games, gifting a soccer kit to the Malkerns Regional Soccer league, as well as a donation of forty thousand Emalangeni.

Since 2016 the company is funding a student from Somnjalose High School for her remaining high school years as well as a tertiary bursary. “As a proud Eswati company, it is a part of our national duty to contribute towards cultural and traditional events and milestones,” explains Hlatshwayo. “In 2018, we contributed five-hundred- thousand Rand to the country’s 50/50 celebrations, as well as building a new pavilion for His Majesty King Mswati III and Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ntombi of Eswatini, for the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance at Nhlangano.

Izazi Mining sets its sights on achieving B-BBEE Level One by 2019

Izazi Mining Services is a one-hundred per cent black-owned mining and construction company, with a B-BBEE rating of Level Three. It is owned and run by business partners Mbongiseni Alfred Sibisi (chief executive officer) and Mahan Joseph Lukhele (chief operating office), both of whom have extensive experience (in excess of twenty-five years a piece) in mining engineering and management, including optimising brownfield and establishing greenfield coal mining projects. In addition to each having two mining-related National Diploma’s, they both qualifi ed as B-Tech Mining Engineers at the University of Johannesburg and have a long list of industry-related certifi cates and relevant qualifications.

“We are very serious about the industry we chose to build our careers and company in and have made it one of our goals to always stay current and on top of the latest technology, to ensure that we are able to offer our clients the most up-to-date solutions,” says Lukhele, who has been responsible for Izazi’s operations since 2007.

Izazi offers a broad range of mining-related capabilities to the industry, including civil and engineering, mining services, as well as minerals and energy expertise.

Its civil and engineering services include construction, roads and earthworks, plant hire, mechanical & electrical installation, Izazi Mining sets its sights on achieving B-BBEE Level One by 2019 chute fabrication, rehabilitation as well as sinking both incline and vertical shafts. The company owns a fleet of fifty construction and mining vehicles, utilised for above and below ground contracts.

Its mining services include the provision of underground construction services such as specialist support, underground and open pit contract mining, outbye general work (belt maintenance, ventilation walls, air crossings), stone work (drilling and blasting dykes, air crossing, sumps, tunnel development), specialised roof installation, sidewalls and high-wall support (roof bolts, cable anchors, wire mesh, cable trusses, OSO straps, acro-props, timber poles etc), crushing and screening (blending coal), and mine infrastructure rehabilitation.

Its minerals and energy services include commodity trading (coal, chrome and gold) as well as energy generation. The company also has prospecting and mining rights in Vlakfontein, Ingogo, Vryheid, Dumbe, Hartebeesfontein and Elandsfontein.

Izazi Mining Services and Stefanutti Stocks Roads & Earthworks have worked in joint venture on two contracts (earthworks, concrete works, roads, rehabilitation) at the Kusile Power Station construction site. The relationship goes as far back as 2006, and in 2018 Izazi was invited to join Stefanutti Stocks’ Enterprise Development Programme.

Each year, Stefanutti Stocks targets three development areas that will assist its enterprise development partner in being sustainable and support its growth. The three areas identified for Izazi for the 2018/2019 fi nancial year included improving the company’s BEE Level – which started as a Level 8 and was brought down to a Level 3. The second focus area is to improve on the B-BBEE level with a target of achieving a level one within a year’s time. The third development area will support Izazi’s brand development and will include the development of a branding guide, a company profile, professional photographs as well as a new website.

Another area that Stefanutti Stocks hopes to assist Izazi in, is improving its Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) grading, currently sitting at two. “Our Level Two is not a reflection of the capacity of our company, we just need to prioritise getting all the administrative requirements in place to be able to move up the CIDB gradings,” says fi nance and administration manager Dudu Mokwena, who is looking forward to the assistance the enterprise development partnership will provide in financial and management procedures.

Further areas that Stefanutti Stocks will be assisting Izazi with, in order to improve its B-BBEE level, include guidance and advice in the area of skills development, the establishment of a mentorship programme, socio-economic development and enterprise development.

Izazi has, over the years, enjoyed a sound working relationship with several well-known companies including Anglo Coal, Exxaro, Glencore, Coal of Africa, Kangra Coal, BHP Billiton, Vunene Mining, Eskom, Sasol Mining and Total Coal.

“What is concerning in the current climate in South Africa, is the fact that the pipeline of new projects has dried up, and we are continuously having to explore new opportunities, to ensure that we continue to grow and remain sustainable,” says CEO Sibisi.

Lukhele adds that many of their clients are faced with the same challenges they are, brought on by the technical recession. “It is our aim to work in partnership with our clients to achieve their targets – our philosophy is that we are part of their teams, and as invested as they are, in making the best of the current economy.”

 

Summiting Kilimanjaro no walk in the park!

My ten months stint for Stefanutti Stocks R&E in Kenya was coming to a close, and I decided that I would most likely not be this close to being able to tick off one of my bucket-list items again, and so decided to climb Kilimanjaro before heading back to South Africa.

As a keen runner I thought the hike and climb would be a walk in the park – and it was… for the first two days. I was with a guided group made up of all shapes, sizes and ages and we climbed about 1 000 metres a day. I recall noticing an elderly Russian gentleman limping up the path and quietly thinking to myself that he didn’t stand a chance – an opinion I had to humbly review a few days later.

The night before the summit was spent at 4 800 metres and I was shocked by how bad I felt. In freezing weather we lay hyperventilating to get sufficient oxygen into our blood. I had a headache, hadn’t eaten all day due to altitude sickness, couldn’t sleep and wondered how this could be classified as a recreational activity.

At around midnight the sleep deprived group departed camp and I joined the trek. Hours later, and about twenty metres from the top, the Russian gent drew level with me, and we ended up reaching the summit together… It didn’t matter what shape, age or size you were – the minus twenty degree temperature and the 5895m altitude completely levelled the playing fields. As long as you could hang onto your guide, Slowly Slowly (“Pole Pole” in Swahili) you would make it.

On reaching the summit, I’ve never before grappled with so many mixed emotions. I was extremely cold and couldn’t feel most of my body. I was under-nourished and utterly spent while at the same time feeling on top of the world, but simply did not have enough air to release the tears of joy. I drank my whisky, posed for the photograph and headed down as fast as possible to the sea of air waiting for me below.

Would I do it again? Of course!

More love stories for Jewel-Art Africa

I have written a number of stories for the “If rings could talk …” section of  Jewel-Art Africa. Rudi Cronje, the resident jeweller at Jewel-Art Africa, designs and crafts beautiful custom-made rings for his clients – and sometimes, as part of the crafting process, they gift their clients with a first person narrative, written from the perspective of the ring.

What has really struck me while writing these stories, is how unique the various journeys of each couple has been. Below is the story of Ivana’s ring. I hope you feel the love too.

 

Ivana’s ring: full circle

The proposal: Hawaii, late April 2015

As the sun rose over a remote black-sand beach in Hawaii, the early morning waves echoed its announcement of this new dawn.  Two figures quietly observed this age old ritual, standing so close to one another, that they could easily have been mistaken for one. As he stepped from their embrace she immediately missed his warmth, the cool fear of the unknown threatening to infiltrate the magic of the moment. Witnessed only by Mother Nature, the Creator, and a dark cloud of uncertainty that hung over them, Andrew pulled a small black box from his pocket. “Ivana,” he gently said, presenting her with a beautiful, black diamond stone. “Will you be my wife?”

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Introducing Annie

INTRODUCING ANNIE – BRAND MASCOT:

Annie grew up on a working farm in the Free State, with four brothers and a host of chores evenly distributed amongst the five children. Before she was knee-high to a grasshopper she was rolling up her sleeves and tackling more than her fair share of tasks. Her affinity for the mechanical quickly saw her becoming an expert in maintaining everything that was motorised – from the old, rusty farm tractor right through to the bright red crop sprayer.

Much to the dismay of her mother but to the delight of her brothers, her adventurous nature saw her learning to pilot said crop-sprayer. She became a regular crop-dusting pilot and people would travel from near and far to witness her nail-biting aerobatics. Fearless, skilled and hands-on Annie was always looking for the next adventure, and when Avex asked her to enhance its tooling division, with the promise of ample time in the air, she was all smiles, and of course answered with a resounding ‘yes’!

Annie’s enthusiasm is infectious and she is passionate about her job here with us! She’ll bring you the latest news from Avex, advice on best practices and make sure you’re the first to know about our amazing special offers. She has an uncanny habit of seeming to be in many places at the same time, so keep your eyes peeled for her broad and friendly smile!

Written for Tracy King, Wing Commander of Paperplane Communication and Design, for her client Avex Tools, to introduce their new brand mascot Annie.

One thing …

I’m currently working on a magazine, and we usually try to work to a theme, to tie our stories together. To try and establish what the theme will be, I’ve been asking people I interview what their ‘one thing’ is. The ‘one thing ‘that motivates them, and the ‘one thing’ they feel is essential to their success.

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To motivation, surprisingly (or not?) not many people have answered with ‘money’. Most people have told me that they are motivated by a specific person – a mother, a child, a partner. A few have answered God, others are motivated by growth, or visible progress.

The answers to ‘the one thing’ essential for success have been more diverse, also depending on where on their career path I’m catching them.  I’ve had responses ranging from external (such as opportunity and environment) to factors such as wisdom, commitment, honesty, integrity, keeping things simple, staying focused, being bold, and so on.

Until yesterday, no-one had thrown my questions back at me, and I must say, that I was quite surprised. What does motivate me? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it could in part be my natural curiosity. I’m going to have to think about that one. And while I do, what’s your ‘one thing’?

Confessions and sweet memories

As kids we had a little routine every Sunday post the church service. We would spend some of our pocket money on a treat at Checkers while my mom bought the Sunday newspaper. We’d then lounge around at home, snacking on our sugary purchases while reading the Sunday Times’ comics or with our noses buried deep in a book.

I would go hell for leather on my stash. My younger sister would make hers last for the day, whereas Vera, the first born, would stretch her supply for longer than I perceived humanly possible. I’m talking the kind of self control that sees the Easter Bunny’s bottom half still hanging around in August.

If one considers the degree of my sweet tooth, the fact that I still have all of my own teeth is a minor miracle. Fortunately my metabolism also dealt relatively well with the potential effect on my weight, although what the sugar did to my personality was quite another story. The youngest in the house (it’s always easiest to pick on them, isn’t it?) was often quite traumatised by my mood swings. Admittedly this memory of me as an ogre on a sugar-high or low, is one we can laugh at over lunch nowadays, but I’m sure at the time it could not have been pretty.

Speaking of meals, the many conversation topics covered over today’s family lunch, included the fact that Nephew A only experiences growth pains in his legs, and not in his upper body. This reminded me of another lunch time conversation, where both now teenage nephews confessed that as under tens they would fake an ache or growing pain in order to obtain what they described as a very tasty banana Panado from Vera. They would exchange a knowing wink as they passed one another in the passage – one clasping a banana Panado in his sweaty paw, the other armed with a compelling reason to be awarded one too.

I don’t think these Panados were around when I was a kid. In fact, I don’t remember medicine ever tasting that good that I would have faked an ailment for it.  If I was going to fake it, my eye was on a much bigger prize – there had to be at least a day off school in it for me. And then there was of course always the option to self-medicate with treats. But I digress.

I recently wrote some copy for a superbly talented friend of mine, who owns a company called bite-size eatery. The name was inspired by her young nephew’s response to the baked edibles and food she prepared. Basically he would demolish the edibles in one go (sound familiar?), and she explained to him that food, especially food prepared with love and reverence, should be enjoyed slowly, one bite at a time. Wise words, even for us adults!

And there you have it – my pearl of wisdom.

Though I’m very happy to report that the chance of a delicious sugary purchase surviving for more than 48-hours is still very slim, as I grew older, a certain level of self-control and discernment did begin to develop.

Another confession. Not too many of today’s Easter Bunnies bottom halves made it past lunch. Mine is still untouched, but I very much doubt it will make it as far as August …

Coasting along

Do you remember when we used to go on those crazy rollercoaster rides, scream with delight and want to go on them again and again and again. And again? We would stand in queues as long as those on voting day, just to embark on a crazy sixty seconds worth of weightless terror, laced with boot-in-the-chest gravity forces. 

We’d then breathlessly disembark, huge grins on our faces, feeling as though we had defied death. Adrenalin would pump through our bodies preparing us for the next big upside-down adventure. “Bring it on!” we’d breathlessly say, beating our chests to the rhythm of the shrieks and squeals echoing across the theme park. We even ventured into those horrendous haunted houses of horrors, where to be honest, I was never quite sure that my heart would survive.

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I remember feeling amazingly alive at the time, and sleeping (albeit dehydrated, stiff, sunburnt and bruised) like a baby, on nights after days like that. I don’t remember ever feeling ill, or witnessing anyone that I rode with losing their candy-floss, toffee-apples or hot-dogs in the air. I’m sure it must have come close once or twice, but boy was it exhilarating!

At some stage conquering my fears became less of a priority, and scaring myself stopped being quite so much fun. It just happened. While I wasn’t quite ready to downgrade to the lazy river ride, I did begin feeling a little more squeamish with each loop. Then the pesky little stage-whisper in my head began planting the seeds of doubt. “What if … the wheels come off … or it stops when you’re suspended in mid-air … or even worse, what if the whole structure just collapses …” 

Eventually I made the call. I didn’t want to be the first ‘young’ person to die of a heart attack while facing my Nemesis, so I started looking for other, more sensible things to challenge myself with. Every now and again, a flutter of bravery would find its way into my little heart, and I’d do something that pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I managed two static-line skydiver rides and a balloon roll-over before that gene went dormant again. 

Then, a few Decembers back, some of the family spent a day at the Valley of the Waves in Sun City. My two nephews and niece thought the 30-metre sheer drop slide was great fun, and kept encouraging me to join them. I ticked off the possible scenarios in my head: it looked well-maintained. Yes. There was a lot of activity and others were surviving. Check. There were repeat offenders present. Check. Eventually, wanting to maintain the ‘cool-aunt’ image, I weakened and agreed to this little adventure. 

No biggie you may think, but as I stood on the edge of the precipice, I still wondered how I could walk away with my dignity intact. This, while standing amidst a small group of people whose average age I’d just brought up to about 12. 

I decided I would cling onto my pride, and off over the edge I went. My sister and niece heard my screams from about a kilometre away, whilst my youngest nephew, who was waiting to receive me at the bottom, thought my show had been hilarious. And once I’d managed to extricate my bikini bottom from my throat, I must say that a tiny tinge of the old adrenalin began coursing through my veins … it was however never going to reach the fist-pumping, chest-beating, I-just-have-to-repeat-this level.

Way back I seemed to have the stomach for it. Now, when the next rollercoaster pulls in and people look at me expectantly, I hope I will say thanks, but no. I don’t want to be the one that arrives back after having re-served my breakfast. From now on I’ll join the queue for the much tamer river ride, or hop onto a sedate sun-set cruise … I’ll be the one wearing a hat, sunblock and carrying a bottle of water.

 

Hello, my name is LoFo

Hello,

My name is LoFo, which is short for Lost and Found. I was born in the Kruger National Park, and when I was about twelve months old I lost my mum to some poachers. I tried to protect her, but they beat me with their machetes, and then left me to die.

I was so frightened after losing my mom, that when some kind humans came to rescue me, I kept on running and hiding for five whole days. Eventually I was so exhausted, sad, and thirsty, that I hid between some branches and hoped no-one would find me. The trackers at the Kruger National Park didn’t give up, and when they found me with the help of some tourists, they took me to Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary, which is now my home.

stefanutti-stocks-sizimisele-care-for-the-wildI’m not really vain, but I’m so glad that they chose a good photograph of me to use with this letter to you, as I really wasn’t in very good shape after the poachers were done with my mom and me. There were three bad wounds on my back, two really bad, and a nasty one on my right ankle, that I got when I tripped over a log that cut deep into my leg. These wounds made me feel very sick and very weak. Even though the good Samaritans at my new home took care of me day and night, my wounds got infected, which was very bad. 

My human mom, Petronel, says that my medical team consists of some of the kindest, most skilled healers in the world. And they fixed me as well as they could, but then I needed special Acticoat dressings, and my new family was struggling to find the money to pay for these. Then Stefanutti Stocks became one of my guardian angels, when they said they’d pay for my medical costs, rehabilitation and care for one year. Those very expensive dressings took care of the infection and I began to feel so much better! I started eating more and gaining weight and you won’t believe the fuss everyone made of me when I put on 9kg in August! I felt like a prince!

There was a little hiccup in my recovery when some of the bone on my back that had been chipped by the machete, got infected but my medical team operated and successfully removed the bone. After a few more magic dressings courtesy of my guardian angels, I started feeling like a brand new rhino calf, and as I grew stronger, I grew more confident too. 

Let me tell you a little about my current home. I do know that once I’m hundred per cent well, I’ll go to live in the wild again, but I must say that I like it where I am. It is beautiful, and I feel safe and special. I’ve heard the humans talk of something called a website, but I’ve not seen it. I think it’s like a snapshot of my current home, maybe you’ll go and have a look? There is always a herd of lovely humans here. They call them caretakers, and they feed and clean us and take great care of our needs.

These days I spend most of my time with Twinkle grazing, playing and napping in the camp. Twinkle came to the sanctuary a few weeks after I did. She also lost her mom, and was attacked by the poachers – her injuries were similar to mine, but luckily she wasn’t hurt as badly.

Twinkle is very special to me, we understand one another’s stories, and I like to spend time with her. In the late afternoon, we go back to our night pen where we cuddle and keep each other warm and safe, till the sun comes up. I know that I am very lucky to have been ‘Found’ and not to have become another ‘Lost’ statistic of my species.

Right now life is good. Maybe one day Twinkle and I can even have a family of our own. I hope so.

LoFo

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(This was written for the Stefanutti Stocks (Pty) Ltd Sustainability Focus: Sizimisele Volume 3, October 2016. Since writing this both LoFo and Twinkle have been dehorned under the expert supervision of Petronel and her incredible support team at Care for the Wild. Please visit their website to read more about their efforts to save young rhinos here).

 

Who made your cheese?

It was high time for me to escape for a while, so I Jet-Jane’d it out of there post voting on the third of August. I’m now safely ensconced in the Swiss mountains, occasionally dipping into a news channel to see how coalition talks are going. Of course we don’t do things simply in the republic – there’s always got to be a bit of “it’s complicated”. A coalition between any of the contenders should, in my mind, be very interesting.

But back to me… or as the title indicated, back to the cheese….

I’m lucky to have a family member who spends his summers in the Swiss mountains making traditional alpine cheese. My sister’s partner has been making cheese for the last thirteen years, so he knows his stuff. All the cheese-making action happens in this mountain hut that the cheese-maker and his peaceful herd of cows inhabit for about eight weeks during the summer. The cow barn forms part of the wooden structure which also includes a kitchen area (where the cheese cauldron lives), a cheese cellar, a pantry, a ‘Stube’ (sleeping/living room), and a dormitory style attic, to accommodate visitors.

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As magnificent as the surroundings are up here, working life is definitely not as fairy-tale as it may seem to the uninitiated. I’ve watched parts of the production process over the past week, and can bear witness to the fact that a combination of muscle, a strict daily routine, patience at the cauldron and good alpine milk yields the desired cheese quality.

The day starts around five-thirty. The cows, after spending the night eating the delicious alpine grass, come in around seven-thirty. They are milked twice a day. First in the morning and again in the evening, after they have spent the day in the straw, chewing their cud, licking salt, sipping water, pooping (a lot) and generally going about their cow-chilling-in-the-barn business.

In the lead up to lunch the previous evening’s and that morning’s batches of milk are magic’d, over an open fire, into a beautiful wheel (or two) of cheese. The cauldron is cleaned, a quick bite to eat, some chores, the cheese is turned. After the evening’s milking, the cows wander off to eat more of that succulent alpine meadow that makes their milk so good and plentiful. Then, the stable is cleaned, more wood is chopped, more chores, dinner and finally some R&R before it starts all over again.

The days are full, yet time moves at a more leisurely pace up here. I admire this age-old Swiss custom, and that, in spite of the fact that we live in an era of processed foods, this organic production continues. It’s refreshing to witness something that doesn’t entail mass production, and where there is such an intense focus on quality. There is something almost hypnotic about the ringing cowbells, announcing the arrival, departure or presence of these gentle herbivores. They also don’t seem to have a care in the world, apart from sticking with their family, and sticking to their routine.

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I feel like I should come up with some profound and philosophical insight into how this whole experience translates into my ‘real life’. Maybe along the lines of the best-selling Who moved my cheese by Spencer Johnson. But we’re not mice. We don’t all like the same cheese. Some of us don’t like cheese at all, and some poor folk are lactose intolerant. And why shift the focus to the moving, and not the making?

I’ve decided to liken the alpine cheese-making process to a labour of love, and its outcome as a gift or a blessing. I hope I bring a little of this peace back, focus on what’s important, and apply some of these principles to the cheese I magic up at home.

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You could look at cheese-making from a capitalist perspective – but no-one’s getting rich up here. A socialist point of view – equal amounts of cheese for everyone? A modernist may say that its time to move on, no more touchy feely traditions. A traditionalist may fight for the status quo? Or maybe a coalition of some of the above?

Today, you get to make the profound connections.

Weight control

She looked at the ever-widening berth of her once streamlined cat. That’s it! As of tomorrow, it’s nothing but diet pellets for her.

The next day at the cat food bowl.

Honestly?! Diet pellets? Is she trying to kill me? First she has me sterilised so that I don’t “grow the family even more”, and now that we’re reaping the weight consequences she wants me to eat that? She may not have wanted to “grow the family”, but why was I not consulted? It’s my body, and to be honest, at least one litter would have been nice. And I’m pretty! She tells me that all the time. I would have made beautiful kittens! And now this. Food for sterilised cats. I think I’m going to throw up. This stuff tastes like cardboard, and it’s not helping with the hair balls either. I mean, I spend up to 18 hours a day grooming, and now I have to suffer the indignity of foraging for greenery in the bitter cold to help shift these hairballs. It’s just not fair. Human, we need to talk.

 

Empty Promises, Pride, Prejudice and Fears

Today’s blog entry comes with a disclaimer, as it is highly probable that I have no idea what I am talking about. Let’s say it’s based on a knee-jerk reaction coupled with a little research and some wandering thoughts. If you decide to read on, just take it from whence it cometh. 

On Friday morning I woke up to hear that Great Britain would be BREXITing. The emphatic response and reactions to this news, from across the globe, made me think that this was real bad. Naturally I headed straight to Google to try and make up my own mind about things, and unsurprisingly I was not the first to hit the search engines with my questions. In fact, I was almost half a day behind the many (thousands?) of United Kingdom citizens who had searched “What is the EU” and “What is BREXIT” after the referendum event. Yes, you read right. After.

How does one vote on something, when one does not really know what one is voting for? I guess part of the explanation could be down to successful campaigning. Of course I wanted to know what compelling arguments made people tick the “Yes, we want out” box, and from what I can gather a large part of the Leave campaign came down to three things. Promises, Prejudice and Fear. 

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Informed Voter by Joe Heller, Green Bay Press Gazette

The Pro-Leavers knew exactly where to aim, and it seems at first glance that they aimed below the belt. The promise that the apparent 350-million Pounds a week that goes to the EU would be channeled into the National Health Insurance (NHS) has already been debunked. That shockingly empty promise is never going to be realised. It also seems that a large part of the motivation for the leave campaign was securing Britain from the influx of migrants and refugees.

You may be thinking that as a South African, I should rather be focusing on what’s happening in my own back yard, and why on earth I feel compelled to write this. You would have had to be hiding in a hole for the last century if you did not know about South Africa’s chequered, colonial and unpalatable past. Our struggles are far from over, however, prejudice and racism is not something unique to the country I live in. Radical racism seems to be raising its ugly head on a regular basis, in more places and countries than ever before. In my simple little mind, I’d like to think the majority of humans are after the same things. Liberty and Security. And yet, when we do have the privilege of having them, we guard them jealously, not  always willing to share. 

I believe that, no matter who we are, there is a little (or a lot) of prejudice in each one of our hearts – be it in the form of racism, classism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and so forth. It is a battle we humans fight daily, and one from which we do not always emerge from as the victor. In fact many just roll over and concede defeat without trying. Thanks to social media the spread of ‘evidence’ of this intolerance has been efficiently streamlined – straight from ‘prejudiced’ lips to the eyes and ears of millions, all just waiting for their turn to be the next ones to pass down judgement.  We have grown so hyper-sensitive that sometimes we are even spotting leopards behind bushes, where there are none. However, make no mistake, there are many spotted critters roaming our global streets. 

During my little BREXIT educational online outing I watched a segment of Last Week Tonight, which is an American show hosted by Englishman John Oliver. This particular segment was aired outside of the UK a week before the referendum,  however was only allowed in the UK after the referendum. If you can overlook the crudeness and cussing and silly song at the end, it’s interesting, left-wing, viewing. It also reveals a few prize leopards lurking in clear view (and if you’re into reading comments on social media, it’s open season if you scroll down). 

I needed to even the scales a little and find out more about the other side, so watched a few interviews with pro-leavers as well as a Q&A on ITV where both Nigel Farage and David Cameron participated in an audience Q&A. A few things sprung out at me – the Leavers felt that the influx of immigrants was a disaster for the UK, but ethnic minorities (UK citizens) seemed to feel marginalised by those promoting the exit. The remain side seemed reasonable, however it did appear that the hard-working class felt threatened by the prospect of remaining in the EU. I had to rewind when Nigel Farage told a woman who asked a question relating to sex-related crimes to calm down. I don’t know much about the man, but good luck ladies of the UK if he becomes one of your leaders. (Did you see how neatly I managed to pass down judgement there?)

Apparently many many experts warned that it would be an economic disaster to leave the EU. A fact that was poo-poo-ed by the Leave campaign. Forgive my paragliding comparison here, but I have often flown with people way more experienced than I – let’s call them the paragliding experts. On the few occasions that I have decided to fly my own line, and veered off the routes the experts have chosen, I have more often than not found myself on the ground…kicking myself for my stupidity. Obviously when I started out, I always hoped that somehow I would gleefully claim victory over the sky-gods – but alas, it’s just never panned out for me. 

A more relevant comparison is perhaps our government’s determination to steadfastly follow their own path. Despite expert advice and evidence to the contrary, they often put the ANC above what is best for our country, and inevitably there are casualties – more often than not, those casualties are the normal people on the ground. Isn’t it mostly the working class that suffers? I guess we still take the cake here in SA, in that the decision of one man last December saw the Rand crash to a record low… it took many millions of BREXIT referendum votes to do that to the Pound. 

Right now I feel a little sorry for the people of the United Kingdom – and as a proud nation I’m sure that’s the last thing they want from me. It must be quite scary to the person on the street coming to terms with the immediate consequences that surely must have left most of them reeling. I haven’t got a cooking clue what happens now, but I do hope that it somehow ends well for everyone involved.

We’re just over a month away from municipal elections, and though elections in South Africa may not feel as momentous as the BREXIT referendum to most people, it’s a pretty big deal right now in the history of our country. It’s probably the first time where voting communities are expressing strong opinions and displeasure at being fed a diet of empty promises or lip service. I truly hope we all know what we are voting for, because the consequences of not really knowing could change the course of our world.

Today’s blog entry comes with a disclaimer, as it is highly probable that I have no idea what I am talking about. Let’s say it’s based on a knee-jerk reaction coupled with a little research and some wandering thoughts. If you read on, I hope you took it from whence it cameth. 

Nothing but love

Last week there was a wedding in the United Kingdom. Alright, so there were probably numerous weddings around the world on that particular day, but this one was extra special. Here’s my version of this romantic tale…

A man, twice divorced, disillusioned, a little bitter, and who had vowed he would never walk down the aisle again during this lifetime, donned his bell bottoms last Tuesday, in preparation for the giant I-do leap. Resigned to his fate of having and holding, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, for etcetera etcetera, he visited the restroom for a last peak at himself in the mirror as a single man. He slapped on some aftershave, took a deep breath, and prayed that everyone would forever hold their peace when asked. Yes, he was ready!

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His betrothed, now wife, is known for being able to keep her cool in a crisis, and as far as I am aware there was none. There were no foxes to be rescued, no felines to fix, no animals to heal, no horses to heed. Tuesday was all about tying the knot. She even wore heels! The groom getting stuck in the mud was a snag easily overcome, and the two managed to get to the Ceremony Room on time. They said I do, he kissed the bride, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’m far from being an expert on the matter of marriage, but that doesn’t stop me from being a great believer in the institution. Obviously one does need to be a little discerning about who one is going to meet at the church T-junction, but being an extreme romantic, I think everyone in love should get hitched. 

Two of my South African girl friends will be walking down the aisle this September. I must say that wedding planning definitely sounds stressful, in particular when (in addition to finalising the guest list, the venue, the seating, how to involve each family, the dress, the food, and and and) the negotiation of lobola forms part of the pre-union proceedings. I’m not familiar with all the intricacies involved in this custom, but I admire the deep level of respect for family and culture that is being observed. This, in spite of the process being drawn out, which must have been very frustrating for this couple.

What I have noticed in those relationships around me that seem to be working, is that the partners find one another interesting and fascinating, take the time to talk, love and respect each other, and have their spouses backs. And this last sentence pretty much sums up why I believe that the wedding in the UK last Tuesday is extra special.

Oh yes… if any of my other friends who’re in love are reading this, just thought I’d mention that I have more than two dresses that haven’t seen the light of day in a while… and that I love dancing, and champagne, and witnessing I do’s…

I have nothing

It’s the tail end of the week and I am pooped. Everything that I’d like to write about seems too upbeat and frivolous when one reviews the week that was in South Africa. Wait. Make that the week that was in the world. Hold on. Make that the week before… and the week before… and the one before that too. It’s been an incredibly tough year out there for some, and tonight I’d like to get few things off my blessed chest. 

To everyone who recently lost anyone, especially through an act of violence – my heart bleeds for you, and my thoughts are with you. I pray that one day soon you may find peace again.

To those who are struggling to make ends meet, I hope that someone will see your plight. And I hope that you’re not too proud to accept that help.

To the drug-pushers and the drug-users – if you were to swop lives for just one day, I wonder how that would pan out. 

To the trash-speaking woman in the video currently on the news. I understand that being the victim of a crime will make one feel vulnerable, ever so angry, and wanting to lash out. However, the smash-and-grabber just meant to steal what was on the seat. Material possessions can be replaced. Losing your cool? Your dignity? Sadly, you gave that away for free. And whilst your words throw a poor light on you, you certainly do not speak for me.

To the voices of hope and reason, that are sometimes so difficult to hear above the cacophony, please don’t be disheartened. Don’t stop talking and reminding us, that there are good things in the world, much progress and many achievements to be celebrated. 

Today it’s the tail end of this week and I have nothing… Nothing upbeat. Nothing frivolous. 

But I promise that I’ll be back, and it won’t be empty-handed.

Today’s Eureka moment

Earlier I was in the Vitamin aisle of a South African retailer, confronted with hundreds of choices… I went in to buy some Vitamin B, but the overwhelming selection of things-we-can-swallow-to-support-our-general-health that faced me, was simply astounding. 

I stood and stared and processed until I located what I was looking for. Another two to three minutes to compare which is the best-priced option, and, as I’m sure I must have at least three bottles of fatigue and stress in me, I settle for the three-for-the-price-of-two option.

Unable to tear myself away from the aisle that promises health and longevity just yet, I peruse the shelves a little longer. Suddenly it dawns on me. All the containers are sorted alphabetically! How did I not notice that before?! I check my new found theory, starting at A, through to G, H, I… While still digesting the revelation that there is order in what I assumed was vast chaos, I pick up a box of something-starting-with-a-V. 

A store attendant pops her face in front of mine – can she assist me? A bit taken aback I mutter something about my alphabetical discovery, and with a slightly odd look she explains that she’s in charge of this aisle, and that it really annoys her when people mess with the system. Not wanting to enrage her, I guiltily pop the box of something-starting-with-a-V in my basket, and casually stroll off in the direction of the tills.

Before I decided to admit to the world at large that a supposedly intelligent woman did not know that vitamins in stores are sorted alphabetically, I asked two of my MOST intelligent friends if they knew this? My female friend laughed at me outright, whereas my male friend was just as surprised as I had been! Granted, I have not spotted many males in the vitamin aisles… but my short survey filled me with enough confidence to spill the beans.

I seem to be capable of finding my way around a bookstore, or through an airport. Enough trips to the food markets have gotten me intuitively finding my way around them too. But clothing stores, in particular the large department stores, have me confused (and I do pray that I never manage to make sense of that vast chaos). Why are the undies hidden in the furthest corner? Is it because we all need underwear and as we make our way to the privates department we suddenly become bashful and filled with the desire to cover ourselves? And when faced with an entire store of options to cover ourselves, does science dictate that we will not leave empty handed? 

I just don’t know, as I have walked out of shops often, just because there has been too great a selection. Why do we need to have so many choices? Isn’t life complicated enough without the total onslaught of things-we-could-have, things-we-should-have, things-we-must-have… and please don’t tell me that they’ve parked the underwear in the corner for modesty’s sake – have you watched reality TV lately?

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Anyhoo… while I consider becoming a mall recluse versus the potential outcomes of my making sense of THAT chaos, I thoughtfully sip on a cup of herbal tea made of a root beginning with a V… it’s not really something I wanted or needed, but it has found its way into my recently decluttered home, and now it must be consumed. Please don’t judge me…

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