The Fencing Foreman

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.

BarbsI 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.

Sheila Earle, Imprefed party.

Sheila Earle, Imprefed party.

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.F&F Greta

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.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 6 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom - #1' 'Medicinal Purposes Only - #2', and 'Children Apart - #3; and 'Tribes of Hillbrow'; all from Southern Africa.
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5 Responses to The Fencing Foreman

  1. Schalk de Beer says:

    I worked for Barlows ( CAT at that time in Bloemfontein as product support sales person. D8H’s , 621 fleet. Amazingly friendly people

  2. Alice Harris says:

    In the local thrift shop today I found a little cast metal plate about 3 3/4″ long, a sort of pointy ended oval with two screw/bolt holes and raised letters saying Stirling-Astaldi (EA) Ltd. Nairobi. An internet search landed me on your site where I was pleased to find some information. Hello from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada! I wonder what story that little metal plate would tell if it could talk?

  3. peterjearle says:

    Thank you for your comment, Alice! So interesting to get comments from all over the world out of the blue. Makes me feel so guilty for not writing a post for three months now; but perhaps I need to change direction and go for thoughts rather than happenings?

  4. roger whisken says:

    I worked in Zambia late 60s -70s for a firm called Burton BMG there were quite a few italians and they used to talk about Stirling Astaldi

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