Category Archives: People

Muse of Magoebaskloof

It takes a rather unusual person who — to support the launch of a friend’s new book — will undertake an epic 31-day walk from Inhambe in Mozambique to Schoemansdal near Louis Trichardt in the foothills of the Soutpansberg mountains.

And that’s what Louis Changuion did in 2002. He retraced the 900km journey of 19th century Pastor Montagne, a Roman Catholic priest, on foot, wearing a cassock. (And Montagne certainly did not do it all on foot. He would have been carried in a hammock by porters for much of the way.)

Schoemansdal was the main centre of the Boers in the north and they had contacted the Portuguese seeking a seaport they could use. Pastor Montagne in Inhambane, then Mozambique’s capital, volunteered to to visit Schoemansdal to see what the Boers needed. Apparently, he’d had an affair which resulted in a child, and he welcomed the chance for an extended absence from Inhambane.

It wasn’t long after that Schoemansdal was evacuated on instructions from Pretoria. The war between Boer and Venda was not going well and, since the safety of Boers in Schoemansdal was risky, Pietersburg (Polokwane) was established as the main town for the north.

But Changuion, then professor of history at the University of the North (now University of Limpopo) and a very fit and keen hiker, had prepared a schedule and stuck to it. He arrived in Schoemansdal in August 2002 on the day the book was launched.

Louis Changuion's walk

Louis Changuion’s walk

Changuion moved to Haenertsburg in 1971 when he accepted a teaching post at the University of the North. He didn’t like Pietersburg and… well, who wouldn’t want to live in nearby Haenertsburg?

One of the attractions of Haenertsburg and Magoebaskloof was the opportunities for hiking and it was this that led to Changuion’s first book — on hikes — which, he says, is the first hiking book published in South Africa.  One of the hiking trails around Haenertsburg has been named the Louis Changuion Trail and starts at the village hall.

And so he started celebrating the area that had become his new home.  His literary output continued with works such as Silence of the Guns : the history of the Long Toms of the Anglo-Boer War; Uncle Sam, Oom Paul en John Bull : Amerika en die Anglo-Boereoorlog; and Pietersburg 1886 – 1986.

His imprint on Haenertsburg is the Long Tom Monument — the open-air museum in the village which commemorates all the wars which involved local inhabitants — the Makgoba War, the Anglo-Boer War, the World Wars and the Border Wars.

He also influenced the aesthetics and character of The Pennefather complex in the centre of the village — self-catering accommodation and a few shops — which celebrate Haenertsburg’s gold-prospecting past.

It’s largely because of Changuion that Haenertsburg is arguably the only town in the whole of Limpopo that really celebrates its heritage.

People set it apart!

Bruce Barritt, MD of First Car Rental says it's people that make the difference

IN A WORLD where global brands rule, there is a South African car rental company that is taking a wholly South African brand onto the world market.  And its commitment to people – which is all that really differentiates one car rental company from another – is so great, that there was an in-house joke when they started that they had more staff than cars!

I met up with Bruce Barritt, MD of First Car Rental, at Indaba in Durban.  First Car Rental is a subsidiary of Combined Motor Holdings (CMH Ltd) which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

While First Car Rental is a relative newcomer in comparison to their competition (having opened its doors in 1999 as the National & Alamo brands), Bruce Barritt has a 30-year track record in the car rental industry.  Bruce Barritt ran the National Alamo franchise in SA for nine years – winning numerous awards as the best global franchise – until the National Alamo EMEA brands were sold to Europcar… South Africa was really a by-product of an International transaction – without much consideration & after First Car Rental (then National Alamo South Africa) paid R180 million in royalties.

But they had their own systems and a very loyal client base so the change to First Car Rental was smooth and their growth since then has been rapid.

His first passion in the company are the people because that’s what sets the company apart.  “We have very committed people at First  Car Rental – they are the lifeblood of the business.  This is a people business,” he says.  He expects everybody within his compliment of staff to make the customer’s experience hassle-free and memorable.

He is also committed to having the most user-friendly systems in the industry and their online systems are very, very good.  They have been innovative, introducing a number of firsts in the local industry.  The vision of wanting to move to a process where bar-coded vehicles and contracts replace the paper trail is more than 50% there, giving staff more time to interact with and get to know their customers.  His biggest nightmare is losing the personal touch and not having direct and immediate contact with all FCR’s customers.  “If something goes wrong, I want to pick up the phone and fix it,” he says.

The in-house joke about more staff than cars started when they rolled out their very impressive national footprint.  You can rent a First Car Rental vehicle almost anywhere in SA.

The move to roll out the First Car Rental brand started in Mauritius and was followed by a former National Alamo franchisee in Malta who needed to be part of a international brand to keep his airport slot.  A few other international franchisees are under consideration at the moment.

Increasing the revenue stream is less important than the marketing footprint of a global brand and it’s with some pride that Bruce says that this is the first time a South African car rental brand has gone international.

First Car Rental also has a servicing agreement with Sixt Rent a Car which is very strong in Germany and also has a presence throughout Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region.

They have just launched Direct Transfer, a chauffered service that picks you up and takes you from A to B.  Click the link to check it out.

When CapeInfo started looking for a marketing partner and sponsor for Travels with Akela, FCR stood out  as the most responsive, friendly and innovative.  They are a delight to work with.

Click here to rent your next vehicle.

Mr Tzaneen Country Lodge

Schultz Mnisi - born to the hospitality industry - chef, head waiter, butler & guide supreme

SCHULTZ IS A STAR among the many stars at Tzaneen Country Lodge.  He is, says Adri Kruger, “Mr Tzaneen Country Lodge” and he looks after everything when she and Faan go away.

Many returning guests ask if he is available when they make a new booking and ask if he can look after them.  In the day and a half that I got to know him, I realised that he is an example to anyone who has any interest in working in the hospitality and tourism industries.

He enjoys interacting with people as much as he enjoys serving them and attending to their needs… and the experience they gain from staying at his establishment.  It is Schultz who maks sure that the experience is memorable.

He came to my room one evening to say that he hadn’t managed to get some Mopani worms that he so badly wanted me to taste.  (Phew, thank goodness!)  But that he would try for next time I come. (Maybe I should try them.)  Guests who do try them are given a certificate… is that a shield of honour?

He explains that you eat them with pap and sheba (mielie meal porridge and a tomato & onion relish), and only need a tiny bite of Mopani worm between each mouthful of pap.  “What does it taste like?” I ask.  “Prawns,” he says, “I should have taken you into Tzaneen where you can buy a teacup size of worms for R15.”

He explains the process they take to market… they are shaken or plucked off Mopani trees, then boiled for a long time, then dried for a few days.  A factory has been built in his home town of Giyani about 100km north of Tzaneen where locals can bring in the worms they collect from the trees.

I had read that Mopani worms have three times the protein of beef, but I’m sure they would be more palatable given another name!

Schultz enjoys exposing visitors to his culture — be it those worms, local life or tribal dances.  I’d go back just for the insight he can offer.  He belongs to the Pedi tribe and started explaining the tribal differences in Limpopo; something I would love to understand.

He was born and educated in Giyani, but finished matric in Johannesburg where his parents moved.  He went to the Hotel School in Ga-Rankuwa, Limpopo, where he studied to be a barman and a chef.

His practical years were spent at the Rand International Hotel but he stayed on there for 14 years.  When his manager left for Harlequin Rugby Club, he was asked to join him, and he worked there as chef and head waiter for seven years.

Then Guy Matthews brought him home to work at The Coachhouse for two years before transferring him to the Magoebaskloof Hotel, where he stayed another ten years.

Then the Krugers offered him his current job in 2001 and he has certainly made it his own.  He bemoans the fact that so many young newcomers to the hospitality industry leave as soon as they are trained.  He enjoys cooking and checking the food in the kitchen, but enjoys speaking with guests in the dining room the most.  He is the ultimate host.