From the start of the new Millennium to 2003, in Maun, Botswana, Bastion Construction grew from nothing to having 35 souls on the payroll, which might sound like nothing much, but more than enough for somebody who had previously had no understanding of the word stress. From a single manhole in Pony Transport’s yard to a half million Pula house and four other concurrent contracts was a large step.
Exhausted, your sleep is still interrupted by nightmares of folk who won’t pay you, suppliers who need payment in turn and finding enough for the wages. Worry about whether your solution for the strength of an overhead beam to carry a change in roof design. Whether the Thalamakane Fault Line will crack your project before you can hand it over… Of course, the word design is a misnomer – a sketch from the owner, or a plan line-drawing with no elevations, no detail, by a youngster trainee architectural draughtsman with his first CAD program.
Everything hinged on word-of-mouth reputation in a small town. Your breadline depended on your reputation of integrity and reliability. On results, not excuses. Yes, there was a frontier town lack of the sometimes tedious control found in settled societies, where qualified artisans only are used for, and take responsibility for, the work. Bricklaying, plastering, tiling, plumbing, electrical installations; all with inspectors regulating every aspect every step of the way. The designs are done by Architects with input from Engineers and approved by Town Planners.
Government jobs were of course handled according to the book with all appropriate checks and balances, sometimes by greasing the right palms, of course. On the few jobs Bastion got with a CE – Consulting Engineer – overseeing the works, I was fortunate to find myself working with decent, non-petty men who would overcome onsite obstacles with practical solutions and no fuss.
With the decision made to leave Botswana before the mighty mosquito killed me, I slowly wrapped up contracts, and looked for potential buyers for the properties I had acquired.
So many dear friends to leave behind; we had a great but certainly saddening farewell party at our soon to be left home on the Thalamakane River in Sexaxa Ward.
On a trip to South Africa to the area of her choice for resettlement, Sheila found a house to her liking in the small town of Uniondale, in what is known as the Southern Cape, which lies mostly in the Western Cape Province. This was within a few kilometres of the farm of her brother, Neil Maling. With a fortunately well-timed buyer for our home on the Thamalakane River, we were able to close the deal.
While it was still dark on the morning of 2nd March 2004, with all nine cats and eight dogs aboard into our two loaded vehicles, the police arrived at the gate to arrest me.
To be continued, of course….