Oom Hans Meyer.
Oom Hans Meyer – Mapunala to his fellow employees, joined the KRUGER PARK staff during 1961.
He was trained in the maintenance and building of heavy construction vehicles at the then Department of Agricultural Engineering services.
Young Hans Meyer loved the AFRICAN bush, his dream was to be able to work in the veldt, he realised that it would be tough but that was of lesser importance.
He applied for the position in the heavy vehicle maintenance team at SKUKUZA, after an interview with Mr. Albert Kuschke, then Parks Engineer, he was appointed.
Hans Meyer was soon appointed as Roads Construction Foreman, a position he held until his retirement in 1994.
There was a lot be done as there were very few roads in the KRUGER PARK during those years and few of them could really be called good roads. At that stage the Rangers were responsible for road building and maintenance additional to all their other responsibilities.
Talk of tarred roads commenced in the very early 1960s, many discussions were held, many of them ended in heated arguments. Ranger Gus Adendorff of the Letaba area was one of the ringleaders against tarred roads in “his wildlife sanctuary”. Eventually sense prevailed and experiments commenced.
Roads that were badly planned or poorly drained would in a surprisingly short time lead to serious erosion and degradation of the habitat.
Roads in National Parks are often also constructed as firebreaks.
Gravel pits dug along the roads and left uncovered are not only unsightly and may have a detrimental effect. Some of these excavations may hold rain water for a considerable period of time and act as unwanted reservoirs in traditional summer grazing areas.
Steep embankments along roads lead to the separation of young animals from their parents like Ostriches, Warthogs and Elephants. This separation would be fatal to very young animals.
Heavy tourist movement along certain roads would definitely be a limiting factor to the daily routine of the more timid species and breeding herds. This may cause the animals to move to less suitable areas or to areas which are already heavily utilised by resident herds.
Much planning had therefore be put into the new roads project and had to be done with the closest co operation of the Conservation Staff, in view of their extensive knowledge of the local conditions. The main aim in the KRUGER PARK was at all times to be was to restrict disturbance during road construction to an absolute minimum.
Much time was spent by the Engineers, Conservation Staff and other Technical Services Staff in the planning and building of new roads in the Park.
Once the project was approved the major operation would start, a mobile workshop was set up in the bush where the servicing and maintenance of the heavy earthmoving vehicles could be carried out by three or four mechanics and their assistants.
Oom Hans was involved in the construction of the following roads.
1961/1962, Letaba River loop gravel road, as well as the gravel road along the Olifants River to the new Olifants Rest Camp.
1962/1963 The Nhlanguleni road
Many experiments on tarring the KRUGER PARK roads were carried out.
The road between SKUKUZA and the Sabie River low water bridge was tarred during 1963/1964 this proved successful and R995000 was granted by the Transport Commission to the Board for a three year road tarring project.
The standards for tarred roads were laid down and had to be strictly adhered to, they were: width - 22 feet, shoulder width – 6 feet, side slope 18 inches.
The Napi tarred road was completed during 1966.
The Skukuza - Lower Sabie tarred road was completed during 1969.
The Lower Sabie – Crocodile Bridge tarred road was completed in 1970.
The Skukuza – Tshokwane tarred road was completed during 1970.
The Tsokwane – Satara tarred road was completed during 1972
The Satara – Olifants tarred road was completed during 1974.
Many firebreak roads were also built and in the meantime the old dirt roads had to be gravelled and maintained.
Oom Hans enjoyed his job; many nights were spent out in the AFRICAN bush, where he wanted to be, gazing at the stars while listening to sounds of the AFRICAN nights.
They often had close shaves with stubborn Elephants who did not seem to realise that road graders were also big and strong, their tree climbing abilities were regularly tested by some angry Buffalo and sometimes even by the King himself r maybe another member of the royal feline family.
Of course life was not only work, there was also time for rest and relaxation. Oom Hans ha all his life been a keen cricketer, he is still the President of the SKUKUZA Cricket Club.
He mentions that the first cricket pitch was hand made and quite dangerous to play on – nothing to do with the fact that often the spectators were of the four legged variety.
A decision was made to construct a decent safe cricket field. Fortunately it was also at the same time decided to extend the roads of the Park. New road building equipment had to be built and the operators had to be trained. Obviously new Caterpillars and lorries had be used close to SKUKUZA where they could be serviced and run in and what better training could one expect in digging up and compacting and levelling techniques than in an area within the confines of the SKUKUZA staff village. The Roads Foreman Hans Meyer was instrumental to the construction of the SKUKUZA Cricket Field.
Many good matches were played here. It was also a place where many of the then Springbok Cricket Team came to prepare before going on tour or just for a visit. Oom Hans befriended many of them e.g. Trevor Goddard, Johnny Waite, Neil Adcock, Peter Heine, Graeme Pollock, Ali Bacher, Dennis Lindsay, Athol McKinnon to just name a few.
Oom Hans was a spin bowler and he says he was a much improved spin bowler after being coached by Athol McKinnon.
He tells the story of once during a visit by some of the previous and older Springboks, two teams were made up and he and Denis Lindsay were in the same team. Peter Heine was in the other. Anyone remembering this feared fast bowler would also know that he was very handy and often quite destructive with the bat. Meyer was bowling and Peter hit the ball, Oom Hans mentions that ball really started gaining height as it went over the pavilion roof. Dennis who was keeping wicket walked up to the bowler and told him not to worry as Peter would be out before the end of the next over. Oom Hans again bowled and Peter missed and then again missed and to the bowler’s astonishment the bails were off. Hans obviously was quite thrilled. The Scorecard read Heine bowled Meyer. Later while having a beer Dennis and Hans went into deep but quiet discussion and Hans was told by the Springbok wicket keeper that he had just shifted his hands slightly backwards in the ‘keepers gloves and when Heine missed, he just touched the bails. This was a very close kept secret afterwards.
After his retirement in 1994, Mapunala still worked as a contractor to the SANPARKS until 2001.
He is now enjoying his well deserved retirement in Nelspruit and still often visits the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, where he still sometimes meets of his fellow workers where they then talk and share a laugh about their times together.
Of the workers still say that Mapunala has not changed very much, he still has a bald head.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 141 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
Last edited by gmlsmit on Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:48 am, edited 2 times in total.