EIGHTEEN YEARS WITH KLIENBAAS MOHLALA.
On Friday afternoon the 5th of May 2017, I was conducting some business in Soweto, and my girlfriend Henrietta Bocchio was out of the house – I guess jolling in Fourways Mall. Late afternoon after we both arrived home, I received a phone call from my neighbour Mike Ward. Mike informed me that he had one Klienbaas Mohlala, an African gentleman who was found in the street looking for me. Of course I immediately knew who Klienbaas Mohlala was, and so did Mike, and so he should, as Klienbaas probably drove him to school about 200 times about 30 years ago. I asked Mike to send Klienbaas over immediately, and Klienbaas duly knocked on my door. What a blast from the far distant past. Klienbaas had worked for me as a driver, and surveying assist, in fact everything assistant, for 18 or 19 years from around 1969 to 1988.
I cannot remember exactly how Klienbaas and myself came together, and neither can he, but it was at Graskop during the construction of the Graskop to Bourkesluck road. I had just finished staking out the final alignment of Long Tom pass, from Lydenberg, to Sabie, without Klienbaas. The new contract, to survey the Graskop to Bourke’s Luck road, allowed for the client to provide 2 assistants. These assistants turned out to be one Willy Monereng, and one Klienbaas Mohlala. After a brief kick-off discussion we three got to work, and I think we all took a liking to each other. The contract went well, and in due course was satisfactorily completed. Both Willy, and Klienbaas decided to come with me for better or worse, and whatever survey contracts I could secure, and the following next 18 years is what this story is all about.
After I welcomed Klienbaas at my door, and Henrietta set us up with cake and coffee, we set about reliving those 18 years, for the next 3 ½ to 4 hours. Willy had become my motor racing mechanic, and racing logistics manager, Klienbaas became my right hand man in surveying, and getting things done in Africa. (my forte). I should point out right now, that these two, and very few others. are the only people I ever trusted completely to drive me anywhere, at any time in Africa. Day or night, neighboring countries, homelands, or cities, sleeping, or awake. Willy eventually left after my fanaticism for off road racing waned significantly, and he went back to his homeland at Bushbuckridge, and became a bigshot in the area. Klienbaas stayed on with me until in 1988, when I think we mutually decided we had both had enough. I asked Klienbaas for confirmation “Was that when we completed the Incline Tunnel at Phalaborwa ?” His memory for dates and places is better than mine. Infact uncanny.
- “Yes” said Klienbaas swallowing his last piece of cake, “But before we go on I want to tell you the reason for my visit”. Er OK, please continue. “Well” said Klienbaas, demanding my full attention. “I am now 67 years old, and am a successful man. I live in Lone Hill, I have two Mercedes cars, and my three children are all grown up with university qualifications, and are very well employed”. “My wife is in good health, and we are happily married.” I have a very good job at Mulders drift, and travel extensively in Southern Africa. My success is due in total to having the very best teacher I could have hoped for, and that is you “Jim Morris”. Pointing at me, so that Henrietta was in no doubt, as to who Jim Morris was. Naturally I was slightly humbled, and became a little embarrassed when Klienbaas proceed to list the many skills, attributes, policies and philosophies, he allegedly learned from me, which it seems, had never failed him, and contributed greatly to his success. Both Henrietta and I were amazed, as Klienbaas quoted dates and places where these lessons were learned. It was all in the hazy past to me, although I did recall most of the incidences, and episodes, and I had perhaps mentioned some of them briefly to Henrietta, in some obscure context. However the chronological order of these events elude me, but not Klienbaas. I will now relate some of these episodes, but in no particular order.
It just so happens the last one came up first – Phalaborwa 1988. We were looking after the quantities, and alignment of a brand new Incline Tunnel / Shaft, which started below the bottom of the mine pit (then at around 400 meters below ground level), and inclining upwards at 15,5 degrees from horizontal, calculated to break surface close to what would be the secondary crusher. The new primary crusher would be located below pit bottom, and would feed down onto a new conveyor to be installed in the Incline Tunnel. I decided the best way to control the drilling and blasting used to excavate the tunnel would be by means of Laser Beams securely attached to the tunnel roof, once the initial tunnelling had started. The drilling and blasting team could easily measure off the beam, up, down, left, and right to locate their drill holes, and a simple triangle and spirit level to guide drill angle.
Drilling and blasting teams were working both faces, intending to meet, slightly more than half way up. The drill hole positions were corrected after each drill, and blast. This made it easy for us, once the beams were set up, as the drillers could carry on without us, and we could easily measure any over-break, or under-break from the beam.
Incline tunnelling proceeded slightly faster than the decline tunnelling, because one could excavate the blasted material out faster downhill. It was still hard going, with heat dust, the latent smell of explosives, limited ventilation, semi-darkness, rough under foot, and the steepness of the shaft. Plus we had to tog up in white overalls, rubber boots, including helmet and miners light. We checked on progress every day, and when called upon to do so. It was important to monitor progress for reasons of contractor payment, and to report on the count-down to break through.
Well the day eventually came when I could report to our client that six more drill / blasts cycles (three on incline, and three on decline) would see us through. Naturally, anybody who was anybody, was invited for the occasion. Caterers, and Bottle Shops were contacted, and the white table cloths were set out in preparation, at the site office adjacent the top portal. Klienbaas and I feverously reviewed our calculations and workmanship – we have had previous experience in occasions such as this. It is not the time to discover a mistake had been made. Well, the final blast-through time was modified slightly to coincide with lunch for the dignitaries shortly after. I know it is traditional for the surveyor to leave town at this point, but we decided to stay for the beer and see what the caterers had come up with, and of course to present a show of confidence. Well just prior to the designated blast-through time, saw everyone and their dog assembled between the top portal, and site office. The mine management, and a collection of shareholders were nervously congratulating themselves, and no doubt anticipating a share price increase when this milestone was achieved. The blast sirens sounded for a couple of minutes, then stopped. Dead silence. Then the muffled womp / roar, accompanied by a slight, but unmistakable ground tremor. A few seconds later, when realization had taken hold, a great concert of cheers, back slapping and yahooing broke out among those present – except Klienbaas and myself who were still pretty sober about the whole thing.
The drilling / blasting foreman was soon dispatched to verify if indeed the blast-through had taken place. Klienbaas and myself, elected to wait a bit before deciding to leave town or join the party. We had a good idea how long it would take the foreman to walk down to the break-through point, and return with the news. Sooner than expected the foreman returned, and I could immediately see he was none too happy, in fact pretty damn worried.
He staggered breathlessly over to the assembled group of dignitaries, whom by now could also see the unhappy countenance of the drill / blast foreman. Another silence settled gloomily, over those gathered. When the foreman got to within earshot, and had recovered his breath, he loudly announced to all and their dogs that “There is only one laser beam down there!” I do not think the shareholders present knew what that meant, but the mine and construction management personnel certainly did. All eyes turned to Klienbaas and myself, standing slightly in the background, but not out of site. The traditional “Leave Town” concept all of a sudden seemed justified. But nah! We will brave it out. Now everyone wanted to go down the shaft, suits and all, but the safety officer would not allow it without the requisite hat, torch, overalls & boots. This thinned the would-be beam lookers to those who could lay their hands on the necessary safety gear, and gave Klienbaas and myself a chance to confer, but we were by no means out of the limelight.
I said to Klienbaas, either the blast did not go right through, or the vertical alignment somehow went cock-eyed. The horizontal alignment can not be wrong, because from the top lip of the main pit we could see both the starting point (at the pit bottom), and the point where the tunnel comes out of the ground, or we have stuffed it up completely, by means unknown, OORRR – the incline laser beam, and the decline laser beam are co-axial – as they should be. (both aiming at each other). Klienbaas and I decided to hang our hopes on the latter, and postpone leaving town for a few more minutes. With our last hope still hanging in the dust we plotted a plan. With the last of the would-be beam lookers having satisfied the Safety Officer that they were properly attired, we all set off down the shaft / tunnel. Klienbaas had his instructions to wait at the point just under the top laser machine (still securely bolted to the roof) with his broom handle. He was to wait a calculated 12 minutes, and then start firmly tapping the laser machine with his broom handle.
I was a bit puzzled when we entered the shaft / tunnel to see the laser beam looked a bit fuzzy, and slightly thicker than I thought it should, but this could be because the beam was slightly refracted because of all the dust in the tunnel – the fans were still busy trying to clear the air.
Just before a timed 12 minutes I called a stop to the group of now puffing, stumbling and sweating managers / shareholders, and drew their attention to the laser beam above us – still a bit fuzzily thick I thought. I checked my watch – exactly 12 minutes, the laser beam split into two for an instant – One beam jumped out of the other, and jumped back in again. I gave a silent sigh of relief, my last hope jumped into certainty. The others in the group had not yet noticed the jumping beams, or if they had, did not realize the significance of the event, however, with very little explanation there was a gradual dawn of cognizance. “THE TWO LASER BEAMS WERE CO-AXIAL” I decided to keep quiet, except to announce we can go back now before the beer gets warm, and the hors d’ oeuvres get stale. Of course the fittest of the construction workers who had accompanied us down the tunnel, beat the rest of the laser-looking group to the top, and must have announced to those still waiting, that there were two laser beams and a break / blast through had been achieved. When we all emerged from the tunnel there was renewed cheering, clinking of glasses, and back slapping. Those of the mine managers, and shareholders who made the trek halfway down the tunnel now felt they deserved their cold beer and sandwiches, and could rightfully take some credit for the success of the project. Klienbaas and I decided not to leave town immediately.
Kleinbaas’ lesson: “Show your confidence”
Henrietta asked if Klienbaas and I would like more coffee, while she had a cigarette. The coffee somehow prompted Klienbaas’ memory, and asked – Do you remember the time we were doing stuff for President Mangope, and the Bophuthatswana Government, and the problem with the donkeys. Well, yes, I do remember. We were at the time contracted to the newly formed government of the newly independent country of Bophuthatswana, granted independence by the Republic of South Africa. Our job was to assist in the development of the country by means of new roads, bridges, fences, dams etc. pretty much anything that seemed at first blush to be viable.
At this time there was a severe drought gripping most of Southern Africa, including Bophuthatswana. It amazed me to discover that for R.200 (Two hundred South African Rands) you could buy two donkeys, two galvanized 200 liter drums, and a fairly good quality two-wheeled, two-donkey cart to carry 400 liters of water. And with this investment you could expect to earn R.200 per day. The donkeys were valued at practically nothing.
One of President Mangope’s main interest was the Hotel /. Casino / Game Reserve known as Sun City, situated in the small mountain range of “Pilanesberg”. The actual Hotel / Casino was complete, and operating, and there were some animals in the surrounding hills, but there was no fence around it, and the Game Reserve had to be properly defined, and ownership deeds to be registered, for legal purposes. President Mangope called us to a meeting at his presidency near Mafeking, to discuss his plans for the Sun City complex, and Game reserve. President Lucas Mangope informed Klienbaas and myself, along with some of his departmental heads, of his plans / dreams for the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The President told us he wanted Sun City to be a tourist attraction, and to this end he would introduce some big game animals, such as Rhino, Hippo, Buffalo, and Elephants etc. The president said he realizes these animals are expensive to buy, and expensive to transport, and would not want them wandering off, or being poached. The obvious solution would be to survey and build a sturdy Game Fence around the Pilanesberg mountains, to contain the expensive game, and also allow for the control of road traffic into the Sun City complex, and the Game Reserve. I suggested the fence alignment around the Pilanesberg should consist of a series of straights and kinks for the ease of co-ordinating, and registering the extent of the property, and, to more easily control the bush clearing, and the actual construction of the fence. This method would also be suitable for perimeter patrols later on. All in agreement, so we say, “yes Mr. President, we will take care of it”. The government’s own “Public Works Department” would arrange the actual construction of the fence, and the “Department of Conservation” would arrange for the importation of the Big Game animals. OK, all fine, we all know what to do.
Klienbaas and I established a camp site (Caravan, Tent and corrugated iron cook / eat structure, at an abandoned, but still fully operating wind pump, and drinking trough. This was situated on a deserted cattle farm between Sun City, and the Rustenburg to Thabazimbi road, a further one or two kilometers to the east. It was quiet, and well off the beaten track. First of all, we drove around Pilanesberg a few times – twice clockwise, and twice anti-clockwise – to get the lay of the land, and establish reference land marks.
We decided to start just south of the main gate, and work around the proposed Game Reserve in a clockwise manner. The fence construction crew would start in a few days when we were a couple of kilometres ahead with the demarcation (pegging) of the fence line.
At the time I owned a fairly large, but lean Labrador Bitch named Muffat. Muffat loved to run, and ride on the back of the pickup. In fact she could run at 10 k.p.h. for 10 kilometres, and easily jump on, and off the pickup at that speed. While we were actually working, Muffat would spend her day hunting whatever resided in the nearby bush. She was always alert for the sound of the pickup when we were leaving the work spot. She loved to chase / play with whatever animals she spotted / came across. She did not miss much. Because she considered the pick-up, and all that valuable survey equipment / instruments her own personal property she was an excellent guard dog for an unattended pick-up.
The perimeter survey, and fence build project was progressing well, and I could fairly accurately predict the completion date, and looked forward to informing the president when he could instruct his wildlife department to order in the big animals he had in mind.
At our camp site at night, the first thing we noticed was the absolute stillness, and silence. The loudest noise by far was the crackling of our camp fire. We estimated, we could hear an average vehicle on the road to our east, at least 10 to 12 kilometres north or south of our spot. We also noticed the “Doppler Effect” as the vehicles passed their closest point to us. On about the third night, we noticed something else for the first time. We heard what sounded like a middle weight (+/- 8 tons) truck coming from Rustenburg in the south. When we guessed the truck to be about 6 kilometres away, we suddenly heard a short screech, followed by a dull thud, then absolute silence again. Strange, maybe a mechanical failure-dropped a prop shaft or something similar. We had no experience with this sound – little did we know, we would become quite experienced with this sound.
During the next 1 or 2 days while travelling to and from camp to Game Reserve perimeter fence, I noticed what seemed to be more than the usual donkeys wandering around on various roads and tracks in the vicinity. I started to think about the drought the country was experiencing, and the mysterious screech / dull thump we heard a few nights back. Donkeys and trucks on the same road at the same time at night – Hmm maybe, just maybe ? ? The very next night after our meal, fire died down, and getting near bed time, we suddenly hear a longer screech, again immediately followed by the familiar dull thud, but this time, not the deathly silence of the night, but what sounded like a radiator hissing after damage. Then the epiphany moment – “The vehicle had hit a donkey”. Shortly after, we heard doors slamming, and loud but casual discussions drifted across the veld. Nothing urgent or life threatening was travelling in the wind. We went to bed in ignorant bliss, knowing all was well with the world and Bophuthatswana. Little did we know that this was mealy the scent of what was yet to come.
It could have been as early as the next night. Again we were well fed, fire had died down to a safe glow, and we were contemplating our beauty sleep. Then all of a sudden, a very short screech ending in a familiar dull thud, and hissing radiator. But this time it was followed by door sounds, and what sounded like kids crying, and a woman screaming / cursing / moaning / praying. It did not take Klienbaas, and I long to visualize what had happened. Almost without words klienbaas and I jumped in the pick-up (bakkie in South Africa.) Half way to the road we realized that with another 10 seconds thought, and we would not have forgotten the first aid kit sitting ready in the caravan. Water which by force of rule we always put in our vehicle before going anywhere, and blankets which were part of the first aid kit. Anyway, too late now – spilt milk. The accident site was further down the road than we at first thought, and we wondered if the whole thing was an illusion, but as soon as we verbalized the thought there it was – testimony as to how well the sounds travel there at night. Nearly dead donkey on the road, fairly big sedan car with front crashed in, and mum, dad, and two kids sitting / lying in the gutter – bloody hell.
This is a perfect scenario / example of how Klienbaas’ language skills could be put to good use. In seconds he had established this black family had come from somewhere south of Rustenburg, and were heading to Northam (about 25 to 30 kilometers further north. It took me many more minutes to ascertain / guess what the injuries were. Dad most likely had a broken nose, and one, or two broken fingers, but was breathing OK. Mum had a leg injury, maybe from the floor gear change lever, and was not breathing OK. The children most likely had crashed into mum and dad in the front seat. They presented grazes, bruises, and I think a loose tooth or two. This black family would live to tell the story. We finally learned that the family had other family in Northam, or just out of town, and that there was a clinic / hospital in Northam. It was decided, mum and youngest child would ride in front with me, and Klienbaas, and older child would ride in the back, dad would wait in the smashed car. The kids perked up quickly, and were now having an adventure. Mum was my concern, it was the clinic for her. Through Klienbaas’ linguistic skills, I was assured they would be able to phone their relatives to come to their rescue. OK, one more thing to do – I retrieved my Ruger Super Blackhawk, in 44 Rem mag, from under the seat, and went over the road, and said good bye to the donkey – not his fault. The rest of the night went according to plan, but still used up most of the night.
I will not go on to describe every donkey / vehicle incident – suffice to say the damage and injuries only varied in degree. On more than a few occasions, when I suspected broken bones, or stitches, I had to take the injured back to Rustenburg, where I knew there was a more substantial hospital. It seems incredible, but if memory serves these accidents occurred about every third night – without end. Remember we could only hear the sounds for 10 or 12 kilometre North, or South of our camp spot. I can only assume the same donkey / vehicle scenario is playing out every night, but out of earshot. Now, with all these late nights, there was a succession of late morning starts, and the fence builders were catching up to our survey, but we were still a day or two ahead, but can not slow down.
The day finally arrived when I could report to the president on a firm completion date (about 2 weeks from now), and he could organize his big animals any time after that – great, everybody happy ! ! A few days after that, while driving from perimeter to camp, past the end of the fence, I was astounded to see 15 white rhinoceros looking nervous, and well out of whack with their current location, and circumstances. Muffat, (the lean Labrador bitch) also noticed them. She quickly asked me through body language, if it would be alright if she killed one or two of them ? ? I told her, also by means of body language – Sure, go ahead. – Muffat does not need direct orders, a mere hint of tacit approval is enough. She went straight at them. Followed by more body language between rhino and Labrador. Rhino – “what the fuck, nothing attacks us”. Lab – “on guard, I am going to tear your throat out”. Rhino – “Jussus, it is trying to out flank us, close ranks”. Lab – “I am just going to nip your heels first to show you who’s boss around here”. Rhino – “It is trying to attack from the rear, back-up into those rocks to protect our heels”. This game went on for quite a while, and was very amusing to watch, but we did not have all day. It was a bit of a worry to me that these, no doubt expensive animals, were not fenced in, and free to go where they please. That night I did my best to get on the phone (no cell phones then) to someone in Mmabatho with my warnings. I left messages all over the place and hoped. Anyway, mid-morning next day a messenger arrived on site from the presidency to assure me all is in order, and a couple of game-guards have been left with them until the fence is closed. Hmm, OK, but I did not check no game-guards. Of course this was of no concern to Muffat, and the Lab / Rhino body language went on for 5 to 10 minutes every time we passed the rhinoceros. Very quickly the Rhino recognized the sound of my pick-up, and were eagerly awaiting the appearance of the Labrador. Both sides had by now realized that the opposition was harmless, or any danger could easily be averted. This game then went on twice a day for the next two weeks, until the fence was finally closed. It was well worth the 10 minute stop to watch this hilarious action.
In the meantime I had secured the contract to peg out and register a new township / suburb at Lehurutshu, between Zeerust, and the Botswana border. I employed a Zulu surveyor to do this work. His name was Matengewa, but was Mat for short. As a surveyor he had one fatal flaw. One of the everlasting principles of surveying, is to find ways to check your field work and calculations. Mat could never grasp the concept that if both answers check-out and agree, there is every chance the result is correct, however if you get two different answers there are three different options, 1. One is right, and one is wrong. 2. The other one is right, and the first one is wrong, or 3. Both answers are wrong. Mat would simply decide which one looked the rightest. He did not last long. Well, the Pilanesberg Game Reserve now has a substantial fence around it, and the boundary co-ordinates have been registered on the title deeds. It is now time to present my invoice, and final report. Naturally I made mention of the many donkey / vehicle accidents which we attended to (at least a dozen) as we did lose time, and sleep in doing so. I also pointed out the loss to the country and its citizens in time, money, and suffering was more than significant. Something had to be done. I submitted that the current price of donkeys was the main contributing reason for this carnage. Shortly after I got word from the presidency, that my cheque is ready, and would I be prepared to sit-in on a departmental heads meeting to discuss the donkey problem. Yes sure, but Klienbaas is my driver, interpreter, and right hand man, and he will sit with me. Fine – off we go to Mmabatho to collect cheque, and sit in meeting – might be away all day.
My cheque was handed over in a well-mannered and respectful way, and we wandered over to the pre-meeting, meeting at presidential chambers. During this pre-meeting, meeting we were lead to understand, that because of the ongoing drought, the department of agriculture was busy destroying donkeys – by means of shooting – in an attempt to save valuable livestock grazing. They were paying the owner, if one could be established from ZAR.5, 00 to ZAR.8, 00 per donkey head. I guess that at the time this valuation was about right. The poor donkeys were just not worth the cost of a fence to keep them out of harm’s way. My opening argument suggested that if the donkeys were not worth the cost of the fence, then were the citizens, whose deaths, and injuries worth the cost of keeping the donkeys off the roads. The present heads of departments, and I suspect Mangope himself, were dumbstruck, at this concept. Well, are they ?!!?, I repeated. It was pretty hard for the politicians to equate the value of citizens with the value of donkeys. Slowly – with Klienbaas’ assistance – the heads gathered there, realized this was not a trick question, and there was no political traps involved. And yes, they all concurred that citizens were worth more than donkeys, and we all know what donkeys are worth in terms of money. My next argument asked for confirmation that the Bophuthatswana Department of Agriculture was paying R.5 to R.8 for each destroyed donkey. Some idiot brought up the price of the bullet as being of some significance. He was frowned down. Anyway, the activities of the Agriculture Dept. was in fact confirmed by those who knew.
My next suggestion shocked everyone present, except Klienbaas. I strongly suggested that agriculture, from now on, should pay R.50 per head of destroyed donkey. “What, that is a 6 or 7 fold increase in the cost / value of donkeys”. Yes, I replied, but we are not discussing the price of donkeys, we are discussing the cost of road accidents, and associated pain and suffering, not to mention the cost of vehicle damage, pretty simple I thought. Mangope’s body language indicated that he agreed with me, and by means of that same body language, told the assembled heads, they should also agree, and promptly. I think it was pretty logical to them, it is just not in the nature of the beast, to deliberately increase the value of something you want to buy. As of tomorrow the new value of donkeys would be R.50, 00, no matter what. This would keep donkeys off the roads. And it did, although I heard later, after the drought, and culling stopped, that the price of donkeys settled to around R.45, 00. The donkey / vehicle accident rate also dropped off substantially.
Klienbaas’ Lesson: “There is more than one way to skin a cat”
Klienbaas suddenly asked me, “Do you realize we once employed Present Jacob Zuma to carry our equipment up the mountains at Impendle?” Huh ? ? Klienbaas proceeded to prompt my memory. You know, the aerial photo control job we did for the Department of Water Affairs, at Impendle / Lotheni / Nottingham Road. Ah well, yes, of course I do. Water Affairs had the intention of building a new dam or two along the Drakensberg Escarpment in the vicinity of Impendle, near Lotheni, a bit south of Nottingham Road. Suitable sites for the dam/s would be selected by means Aerial Mapping. The usual procedure is to select features on the ground, and paint them to make a big white cross which will be visible on the aerial photograph, or, if no such features exist, to make one out of rocks / concrete, and paint them to the extent it will be clear to the pilot, and on the air photos. Naturally this is done prior to taking the air photos. These features, natural, or man-made, can then be surveyed anytime, before, or after taking the air photos. For some reason, probably because of the unpredictable weather along that escarpment, the air photos were taken first, I guess at the first clear weather opportunity. I was given a suitcase full of photographs of the escarpment, and adjacent high ground, and low ground, somewhere along the Drakensberg Escarpment. The Water Affairs guy said that Impendle would be a good place to start.
Well, Impendle was a good place to start, mainly because the local store keeper / land owner had previously been approached by Water Affairs personnel to discuss the proposed new dam/s. He knew more about the project than I did, and indicated where he thought the new dam/s would be. This information made sense of the photos I had, and we soon had them in order. It looks like the pilot also knew where he was supposed to be. Now, all we (Klienbaas, and myself) had to do was find features on the ground that showed on two or more photos. These features could include odd shaped rocks, intersection of footpaths, fence corners, building corners etc. It soon became apparent we would be climbing up and down the escarpment with a suitcase full of photos, theodolite, and distance measuring equipment, plus loads of odds & ends associated with the task. Quite often we would spend half a day climbing up the escarpment, only to be clouded-in, and rained-in. All we could do was sit it out in the rain, and the clouds until next morning, when hopefully I could carry out some observations to other features – sometimes out of site. We had to be more mobile. My first thought was to engage some of the local Zulus I had seen with donkeys, riding them, or leading them with sacks of flour or maize meal across their backs, but this was on level ground. It was pretty obvious that carrying survey equipment up, or down the escarpment, without some kind of pack-saddle would be looking for trouble. Alas, the concept of pack-saddle had not yet been conceived in this part of the world. Well, if we cannot have donkeys and pack-saddles, we will have Pack-Zulus. So, I put the word out that I could use 6 big tough local Zulu men to carry stuff up and down the escarpment without dropping it, and be prepared to sleep out cold and wet if necessary. Only the toughest and strongest need apply. Next morning at least twenty Zulu men / boys were waiting. They did not look big, strong, or tough to me – but this is what we have got. I elected to say a few short words to each of them in English, and if I got a few short English words back they were hired. I probably took 8 or 10. In hind-sight, the little English test was a waste of time, and unnecessary, Klienbaas’ communication and language skills were more than up to it, without any English at all, once the various survey items were given names. Well, we worked well with this group, but they were actually directly under Klienbaas’ control, and I suspect he got on well with them, and got to know them over the many weeks it took to complete this job.
Eventually all the air photos had been successfully marked up, and a list of co-ordinates, and elevations allocated to the hundreds of features we had surveyed. Satisfied we had done the job, we packed up at Impendle, said goodbye to our Zulu helpers, and delivered our marked up photos to Water Affairs in Pretoria. The department expressed themselves satisfied, and asked for the invoice.
Henrietta offered another cup of coffee, and a sandwich to Klienbaas and myself, and while she was preparing it, Klienbaas reiterated why he thinks one of those Zulu boys we hired was Jacob Zuma. 1. It is now well known that the Impendle district is where Jacob Zuma, and other Zumas come from. 2. Klienbaas remembers one of them gave his name as Jacob. 3. Klienbaas remembers pieces of trivia mentioned by Jacob during the many weeks he worked with us, and made connections with what Jacob has said since, and what has become common knowledge of Jacob Zuma’s past. 4. Klienbaas says he also is aware of a facial similarity. It could be, Klienbaas has an uncanny recall of names, faces, places and dates.
Klienbaas’ Lesson: “You never know who you will meet”
Out of nowhere Klienbaas asked Henrietta and myself, if we have been in any Power Stations recently. I told him I had been to Kusile, and Madupi recently, but not actually inside them – why do you ask ? ? Klienbaas said he was thinking about that noisy Power Station we went to, out there on the Eastern Highveld. Oh yes – the one with the two meter steam pipe hanging from the rafters, and kept popping off its end cap. That is the one. Neither of us could remember the name of that particular Power Station, there are quite a few in the vicinity of Bronkhorstspruit, Witbank, Kriel, Middleburg area. The description we received from ESKOM was brief, and a little confusing. It appeared, that every now and again, one of the 2 meter, overhead Super-heated Steam pipes blew off its end cap. The Station’s Engineer suspects the pipe (which is suspended from the roof rafters) has somehow developed a sag in it, which collects condensed steam water, and forms a puddle of 2 or 3 thousand liters at the bottom of the pipe. Then when the Super-heated Steam enters the pipe, it contains enough heat energy to immediately convert the puddle water to more Super-heated Steam, and simultaneously doubles, or triples the pressure inside the pipe, and pops off the end cap. This is then a danger to people and machinery in the vicinity.
OK, but surely the troublesome pipe would not be level, but should have been designed with a fall to one end to allow drainage. Well never mind, we will come on Monday, and find the problem, one way or another. The Station Engineer said he would have a scaffolding crew standing by for us.
About mid-morning Monday Klienbaas, and I arrived at the gate, stated our business with the Station Engineer, and were quickly taken into his office looking at old construction drawings. Sure enough, the offending pipe was designed to have a fairly flat fall from the steam generator to the troublesome end cap, and the 1 or 2 take off pipes also were supposed to have a fall to their various implements. So if, the pipes are installed according to design, there would be no water puddle in the pipe. What about the integrity of the end cap itself ? ? We decided to have a look at the troublesome end cap. I was surprised at its massiveness – 2meters in diameter, 50mm thick, with 8 x 25mm bolts. This time the nuts themselves had stripped, but the foreman said last time it was a combination of the nuts stripping, and the other end of the bolt stripping. It seemed impossible for the steam to do this. We went back to the engineer’s office to calculate what pressure would be required to pop off the end cap. It worked out to be in excess of quadruple the design pressure of the Superheated Steam. The Station Engineer went back to his puddle theory, and I was inclined to agree with him. Right, we would check the height each end of the pipe first to establish the overall fall, and then work towards the centre, at 5 meter intervals, to check for any irregular dips, that could contain a sizable puddle. With the results of our survey the Engineer & Foreman could decide on remedial action.
Klienbaas and myself went off to instruct the scaffolding crew of what we wanted. My plan was to fix a bracket at every 5 meters to which we could attach the zero end of my tape measure, and let it hang towards the floor. Then by means of our Surveyor’s Level could read the vertical tape measure, and calculate the height of the steam pipe at the 5 meter intervals. Simple enough, we thought. We took the scaffold crew inside to discuss our plan. The first surprise was high level of noise. Even speaking directly into the listener’s ear (100 mm) one could not be heard. OK, I beckoned everyone outside, and some distance away, to again explain the plan. With frequent trips back inside to point out various features connected to the pipeline, and then back outside again to talk about it.
Even erecting the scaffold was problematic, there always seemed to be a piece of machinery / equipment in the way, and we would all have to go back outside again to discuss it, and change my instructions. I had never experienced such excessive nose before – speaking was absolutely impossible. Even when we got the brackets ready to hang the tape measure on, I could see another looming problem – The Highveld wind seemed to blow right through this Power Station, in fact I suspect the huge open doors in the walls of the structure funneled the wind to even higher velocities. This breeze set up both a harmonic vibration in the tape measure, as well as a pendulum effect. This is a common enough problem in deep mines with vertical shafts, and the answer is to hang the end of your plumb-bob or tape measure in a drum, or bucket of heavy duty oil. Now to explain this concept to the crew, I had to again beckon everyone outside again. The scaffold crew assured me they could lay their hands on a 20 liter paint drum, and some used engine oil, but not today – it was quitting time. Tomorrow. I hoped the crew had grasped to oil bucket concept, Klienbaas assured me they had. We would bring a concrete brick, and a piece of rope. Well the next morning we were pleasantly surprised to find a suitable open topped drum 3/4 full of dirty looking engine oil. With the zero end of the tape attached to its bracket, and the winder end attached to the concrete brick, by means of our rope, and the brick in the drum of oil, the tape was steady enough to read with the surveyor’s level – great. But the simple task of moving the scaffolding, and moving, and hanging the tape to the next bracket required a trip outside to discuss it for the umpteenth time – we will have to come back again tomorrow. For all the above reasons, we only finished our observations the next day, then the following day to calculate the results of our survey, and telephone them through to the Station’s Engineer. He was in fact correct, there was an irregular dip in the Super-heated Steam pipe. Enough to collect the original suspect – the puddle of water. We did return the following week to discuss the accuracy of the survey due to the adverse conditions. I did not realize at the time, the important role Klienbaas played in communicating precisely with the scaffolding crew. I do now. Klienbaas said the lesson he learned here was “Plan your work, and then work your plan”.
Henrietta, had just put down our umpteenth coffee, when Klienbaas asked if I knew how the ERGO (East Rand Gold and Uranium) project was going, if it was still going ? ? ERGO was the project that endeavored to pump all of Johannesburg’s old mine dumps to a location near Springs to be re-refined by a more advanced methods, in the hope of extracting some more gold, and uranium. The quantities involved were enormous. Some of those dumps have been in existence for 100 years. Consequently the new equipment needed to process that material was necessarily huge. For example the main thickener for the plant was, if I remember correctly, 80 / 90 meters in radius. The heavily reinforced wall had to be perfectly circular to allow the motorized bogie to run on top of the wall. The other end of the 80 / 90 meter boom was attached to a huge pin located dead centre of the thickener. Our job / contract was to make sure all this went according to plan – The correct reinforcing steel imbedded in the concrete, the steel running plate on top of the wall, and the huge pin at dead centre – Time was of the essence. The boom and its motorized solid rubber tyred bogie attached to the outer end were to be manufactured at a nearby engineering works, and transported to site by two specially equipped trucks, and placed on the thickener by means of three specially equipped mobile cranes, the timing also of the essence, and to coincide with the concrete work.
It turned out to be almost fulltime work, with three teams working two shifts, fixing steel, fixing formwork, pouring concrete, removing formwork etc. etc. Well the work went pretty smoothly, and I believe we were ahead of schedule most of the time. I remember at a lull in the work Klienbaas asked about the steel lattice boom that obviously had to fit on here somehow. I explained it was being made elsewhere, and would be delivered as soon as we were ready to receive it. Well shouldn’t we be checking it against our concrete work ? ? The same thought had occurred to me, and with the nudge from Klienbaas, I approached the site Engineer to ask if we should not visit the factory, and check on their progress, and build dimensions. Nah, said the engineer, they are building it on a flat concrete floor, with the aid of overhead cranes. The measurements are simple enough, they cannot really go wrong – don’t waste any time on it. Well, OK fine, what about progress ? ? The site engineer said he has been checking once a week – the boom construction is slightly ahead of schedule, and so is the concrete work, so don’t worry.
Well word finally cane through from the factory that the pre-fabricated boom for our thickener is complete, and ready for collection / delivery. That was good news, as we only had two more concrete pours to go, and the formwork and reinforcing were in place, and both those pours could be done simultaneously. So say, a day or two while the concrete cures enough to take off the formwork, then another 3 to 5 days for the concrete to gain enough strength to support the boom. Good, enough time to organize, and clear the way for the two special trucks, and three special cranes. And to organize a site party to celebrate the completion of the biggest thickener in Africa. I think an extra day or two was added so the celebrities, shareholders, directors, and their secretaries could be in attendance to witness the final touch of lowering the boom, and its motor onto the center-pin, and running track on the top of the thickener’s wall. Great – it all sounds wonderful, but I still had the niggling thought, that we had not checked the boom dimensions.
Well the day arrived, we had heard the boom had been loaded onto the two special, inter-connected trucks the day before, and would be here mid-morning. If all went well, the boom would be in place by the time the celebrities, and their high healed, hard hatted, and mini-skirted secretaries were ready for lunch, and the directors / investors / construction managers etc. would have a milestone, or something to celebrate. The idea was that two of the cranes would establish themselves between the trucks, and the thickener, and off a bit at each end of the boom, and by rotating, swing the boom out over the thickener one end to the centre pin, the other end to the top of the running wall. The third crane would be set up outside the trucks, and would support the middle of the boom, by means of extension. It all looked right, but one could not judge the compatibility of boom to circular wall, simply by looking. The focus was on fitting the inner end of the boom to the huge centre pin of the thickener, after that everything would fall into place. Everyone was looking at that centre pin, including the crane operators. When the inner end of the boom slipped nicely over the centre pin all attention swung to the outer end of the boom with its motorized, rubber tyred drive unit, which was now seen to be hanging over the outside edge of the thickener by at least two meters. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, has gone wrong here. I was not the only one asking. Even the secretaries, knew something was amiss. I knew the fault had to lie in the boom’s unchecked dimensions, but this was not clear to all those present. It is fair to say chaos broke out.
The special truck drivers, reckoned that they had delivered the goods, and should therefore be free to go. The Engineers first thought the boom should go back to the fabrication shop. Some of the Head Office personnel, expressed the view, the circular wall was wrong, and the accountants said payment should be with-held, as some kind of remedy. The crane operators were worst off, with the boom hanging in space, and nowhere to put it down. In a bid to protect myself, I pointed out that I had been forbidden to check the boom at the fabrication shop – this was accepted, and spawned the idea that the fabrication shop be contacted. Meantime “Nobody Move”. When the Fab-Shop guys arrived, the solution was much simplified. They would bring the trestles upon which the boom was assembled in the Fab-shop. The cranes lowered the boom onto the trestles, and they would remove the offending two metres, and weld / bolt it back together again using jacks and stacks. But not until tomorrow. The much anticipated party simply fizzled into the ground. Everyone there simply slouched off. What a pity. I think Klienbaas’ lesson is obvious in this one. “Why take the chance”
I think it was close to midnight now, when Henrietta asked, unenthusiastically if Klienbaas and I wanted more coffee. We were silent in contemplation for a few seconds, when Klienbaas asked “Do you remember the SHADY PARKING COMPANY?” Well, of course I do, Henrietta pricked up her ears, and Klienbaas and I proceeded to tell her this story. Traditionally in Johannesburg, the Builders Holidays start on the 12th of December, or there abouts, depending on what day of the week it falls, and unless there are exceptional circumstances. In this case, it was mid-November, and my client did not want to start this new High-Rise building, in mid Braamfontein until after holidays in January. This valuable site in downtown Johannesburg, had been cleared, and fenced. The plans had been released and approved, and the job was ready to go, except for the surveying and setting out of the building lines. My client asked, if during the Builders Holidays we could accurately set-out the building lines, and levels. We agreed. The work would consist of placing survey marks on the adjacent streets, foot paths, and surrounding buildings. We were given keys to the gate in the fence surrounding the proposed construction site, and we promised to have the site ready for construction to begin in early January.
As soon as we (Klienbaas, Willy, and myself) arrived on site, and unlocked the gate, we simultaneously realized – This place is in demand. Dozens of cars were hooting, and flashing, and their drivers, and passengers were asking by means of body language, and shouting, if they could park in our currently fenced off building site. Well the answer was Hell No!! We are working here, and need a clear field. Quickly, Willy, shut and lock the gate, before we lose control of the traffic. Experience has taught me that once a car is left abandoned, it is next to impossible to move it. Over, and above that-Sods Law states that it will be parked over a manhole, or important survey beacon. So do not allow any drivers to sneak in. At this point, little did I know this policy would be drastically reversed. But the germ of an idea had already taken root in my subconscious. “Supply and demand”.
The survey went smoother than expected – Town cadastral survey beacons were easily found, the building was to be rectangular, so only 4 corners, and 4 sides needed to be established, plus a couple of Bench Marks for elevation control. We needed to go in, and out, of the property on several occasions, and each time we opened the gate were besieged by drivers wanting to park their cars. The idea that had previously taken root, was now sprouting twigs and branches in my full consciousness. – How many parked cars can I fit into this rectangular piece of land?? Well, we are surveyors, and can soon work that one out. Let’s see now. A car needs a full 3 meters when parked side by side, this allows for doors to be opened. We had 90 meters x 60 meters at our disposal. – So, 30 cars parked side by side along the long side, and 8 rows with lanes in between every second row. Wow 240 cars. Maybe subtract a few to allow for sloppy parking, and space to drive around the ends of each row. So say 220 cars, but wait a minute, if we set it out properly, like a car park, with bays and all, there will be no sloppy parking, and no car parking attendant required, or so I thought. We can mark it out with chalk / lime – like a cricket pitch / ground we did recently. The idea had by now reached full bloom, and has all but borne fruit. We will need white coats, and cash bags for Klienbaas and Willy. Sign boards telling anyone in range that parking is available here @ how much money per car? – Good question.
OK, here is the plan: – We can finish the building survey tomorrow morning, and then set out the car parking bays. Tonight I will phone a sign writer / maker I know, and think about the price. The sign maker / writer agreed to make the signs -2 off- from steel plate, with angle iron frame, and put in the price last. Great. Next morning we finished setting out the building lines, and by sunset had marked out the car parking bays. Even had time to ask a few street parked drivers what they would be prepared to pay for a day in our new car park. It ranged from R.1, 00 to R.2, 00, with R.1, 50 being popular. I passed this onto my sign writer – signs will be ready next morning. We would also buy white coats, and carpenter’s bags – to look official. I did not even know who the current owners of the land were, and we did not want to attract undue attention, and look like rogues, or fraudsters. This all sounds cheap by today’s standards, but by way of comparison – A complete Survey Team would be lucky to earn R.200, 00 per day then, and not every day.
The early morning day of truth & reckoning arrived. I was to stand across the street in a casual manner, and keep an eye on things. Klienbaas, and Willy would unlock the gate, put the signs-angled to left and right-on either side of the gate, park the bakkie in the first row, facing straight at the gate, and immediately take up their positions as money collector, and parking director respectively, and interchangeable. It must have been 10 seconds before the first customer arrived, willingly handed over the money, and with brief instructions from the Parking Director, parked nicely. From then on, for the rest of the day it was easy picking. Each time the money bag was full, the collector emptied it on to the front floor of the bakkie. As late afternoon approached, I begin to wonder what to do if at say by 6:00pm there were still cars in the fenced area. As it turned out on that first day; all cars were gone by around 05:30pm. Another problem I noticed was that drivers were undecided to turn left or right when entering the car park. It does not matter which way they go, but would be less chance of an entanglement if they all went the same way. OK, no problem, we will put a left turn arrow on the ground with white chalk / lime, ready for tomorrow. It will probably not last long, but easy to freshen it each day. The car park was pretty much full all day, and more by good luck, than good management – cars that left through the day were shortly replaced by a newcomer. When we packed up for the day, I could not comprehend the pile of money on the front floor. Nowhere to put our feet, and it would not fit under the seat – whew, all leave cancelled.
Next day pretty much the same, except for one worrying incident; One middle aged woman, whom it seemed from my vantage point, did not have money at hand, indicated to the money collector, she had money in the boot. She got out, and walked to the back of her car, but the boot lid was stuck. Waiting cars were flashing, and hooting. She shouted at her passenger to pull the release. The boot lid flipped up, but bounced back down again just as she put her head in the boot, the boot lid struck her on the back of her head, and she fell face first into the boot, and stayed there. Oh f–k! Her passenger (another lady) got out to look, and immediately threw her arms in the air. Then someone from 2 or 3 flashing hooting cars back, got out, and came to the scene. Between the passenger, and the someone, they got the wounded driver into the back seat, and my parking director agreed to park the car. I noticed, after some time, the driver, and her passenger walked out of the car park, and paid on the way out. I heard later, she even gave Willy a tip for parking her car. I have to admit I felt a bit guilty, just standing across the street watching all this. I also noticed our newly demarcated left turn arrow was working perfectly, but would need a touch up every second day. I was again amazed at the amount of money on the front floor of the pick-up (bakkie in South Africa).
Well we managed to keep this up for all of the last week of November, through all of December, until the 3rd or 4th of January, when we swept up our parking bays, and left turn arrow in time to hand over the site to our building client, who expressed their heart felt satisfaction, and apologized for asking us to work over the holiday period, and please present your invoice for prompt payment.
Not having another Car Park to operate, I used those two heavy duty signs to build a work bench, which I still have, and see those signs almost every day.
Klienbaas’ lesson – “Do not miss opportunities”
RIDE HARD, SHOOT STRAIGHT, AND SPEAK THE TRUTH.