If it is possible to be brief about the history of a construction company that began its life in the 1920s, here is a little of the background of Imprefed (Pty) Ltd, which I joined in 1978.
In about 1929, Italian engineer, Sante Astaldi, started his construction company which built large-scale civil works in Italy and in Africa. In the early 1950s a joint venture was formed with English businessman, John Stirling. Stirling Astaldi (Africa) came into being, with increasing contracts all over East and West Africa in the line of hydroelectric schemes, railways, highways, and airports.
As they extended their operations, it was inevitable that the company would take work in South Africa, but due to the sanction restrictions of the 70s, a name-change was necessary. Both Impresit, an Italian construction company, and a Mr Fortunato Federici had acquired substantial shareholdings, so a combination of their names became Imprefed (Pty) Ltd. Their personnel included many Italians and Kenyans of Italian origin.
Their first South African contract in 1974 was the long stretch of double highway and fly-overs which constitute the Bloemfontein by-pass, followed by other scattered contracts including the southern Freestate, Harrismith and then in 1978-81, they tackled the 53 kms of road between Cathcart and Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape.
I was accepted as a concrete foreman, building culverts, but they soon sacked me, replacing me with the fencing foreman who had more experience, and gave me his job. I set out the fences of the road reserve and had a team that built them to the high standard required, through some pretty rough rocky country. Interesting, and quite a challenge.
The company was very community conscious; they held social events and helped with local projects, raising money for the school and giving the little town quite an international flavour while they were there. Sheila and I became fast friends with Carlo Bighi and his Danish/English wife Greta, and with Beppe Coen and his English wife, Dawn. We are friends to this day, although Beppe has passed away. Both families had been with Stirling Astaldi in East Africa, but settled in South Africa when they finally left the company.
The Imprefed Site Agent was the father of the Italian Rugby Internationals,the Cuttita twins, Massimo (prop) and Marcello (wing), who first played and fell in love with the game attending the Primary School in Cathcart.