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Saying Good-bye After 34 years Service in the KNP

Date: 2008-02-21

by Michele Hofmeyr and Guin Zambatis

First appointed to SANParks in February 1973 as a general worker, Johan Sithole began his long and productive career at Crocodile Bridge in the Kruger National Park. In November 1973 Johan was transferred to the north of Kruger to Mooiplaas section.

In November 1974 Johan returned to Crocodile Bridge was promoted to the position of a field ranger, which meant active patrols in the veld and the chance to learn more about the wildlife of Kruger. In 1976 Johan was offered position as a laboratory assistant in the research section of Skukuza, but he decline the offer as he was enjoying being out and about in the field. Then one day when Johan came back from a patrol he found his thatched hut “doorless” and all his belongings were gone. When he asked Johan Steyn, the then section ranger, what had happened he just told Johan catch a lift to Skukuza and that is how Johan started working in Research and Development in August 1976! In 1980 Johan was promoted to the position of Laboratory Supervisor working in the Scientific Services Department.

Johan didn’t only work in the laboratory but also assisted in game capture operations – that sometimes lasted for up to 3 months in the field. This was challenging and physical work that involved taking samples from captured animals and having to be alert to possible danger at all times. In 2001 Johan stopped helping with the Game Capture team as the Game Capture unit and laboratories were separated from the Scientific Services Offices and relocated to their new offices.

Johan’s responsibilities changed and increased over the years and he was tasked with the supervision of the N’waswitshaka Research Camp staff and the maintenance of the camp. From 2001 Johan has been working in the herbarium/ biological reference collection with Guin Zambatis and his tasks have been varied from assisting on the ground crew for the helicopter and fix-wing aerial census in the Kruger Park to cleaning and preparing specimens for the reference collection. His day to day tasks would vary from the skinning of larger specimens for the collection, cleaning skulls and fumigation to sending water samples away to laboratories for analysis. He helped with fetching and carrying, driving people to various destinations as well as maintaining the research accommodation in Tshokwane and Satara.

Johan’s helping hand was not only seen in the working environment but whenever there was a function Johan was always there to help with the arrangements from fetching tables and chairs to the chef’s role at the braai. He helped with the annual Skukuza Half Marathon and at the cricket club.

“Johan was a wonderful man to work with and he always did more than he was asked to do” says Guin Zambatis, curator of the Skukuza Biological Reference Collection. “Nothing was ever a problem or too much effort for him. He was meticulous and thorough and could always make a plan to solve a problem. As an assistant with the collection he worked with great care and took pride in his work. We wish him a peaceful retirement” says Guin.

“In my 34 years of service in SANParks it has not been child’s play, it was not always easy, but I would like to thank God for giving me the strength that helped me work from 1973 up till now” says Johan.