John Bryson escapes into retirement

John Bryson, Foundry Director at Kimberley Engineering Works (KEW Foundries), has announced that he will be retiring at the end of February 2014.

“After more than 47 years in the steel and foundry business I have decided that the time is right to retire. I leave KEW Foundries knowing that my fellow directors and future management teams will follow the successful course we have charted. It has been a privilege to have been a part of the industry for so many years and to work with its many dedicated employees,” said Bryson.


Bryson has been associated with KEW Foundries since joining the company in 2000 as Foundry Manager and has been the Foundry Director since 2007 after a MBO.

Bryson recalls his love affair with Africa and its wonders, in particular Southern Africa.

“I arrived for a holiday in what was then known as Lourenco Marques in June 1967, at the age of 18 and single. My adventure began when we flew across in a Bristol Britannia (a British medium-to-long-range airliner built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company), from Glasgow, Scotland where I was born. This trip took us 36 hours and we stopped at Basle in Switzerland and Nairobi, Kenya on the way down. I loved it so much that I decided to settle in Africa and I have never been back to Scotland. What is remarkable is that I have only left Africa once since arriving. That was in 2011 when I visited the GIFA exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany.”

“After a short stay in Mozambique I then moved on to visit my parents who were living in what was then Rhodesia. My trip took me via the Kruger National Park. I entered the park via the Crocodile Bridge gate and, who would have thought that 47 years later I would be retiring to a home not 10 minutes away from that gate.”

“My working career began at the Lead & Zinc mine in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia where I worked for six years. I then moved onto Orapa Diamond Mine in Botswana followed by a gold mine in Southern Rhodesia. I even staked my own claim but in those days the mines inspector checked that you had worked your claim at least 1”0” per year, but with too many other distractions for a young man I found this to be rather difficult.”

“Life was full of exciting adventures at that time with very little stress. I remember flying to Wankie Colliery for an interview. When we landed l found myself in the middle of the game park. There I was sitting on my suitcase reading a Dennis Wheatley novel with a herd of elephants around me. Thankfully a ranger gave me a lift to the main road from where I hitched a lift to the colliery for the interview.”

“On another occasion I found myself, one Friday, in the front of a ‘shoe shine bus’, as they were referred to, on my way to Mashaba mine, Zimbabwe. The bus was split up according to your skin colour and the whites sat in a compartment in the front of the bus.”

“I was on my way for an interview and was offered the position and told to return on the Monday to start work. Before leaving I was asked what was wrong because they had noticed I was very agitated. I explained that I had no money. The managers kindly booked me into the single quarters and gave me credit for the club so that I could eat and have a few beers until my first pay cheque. That was the closest I came to being absolutely broke.”

“Before leaving Scotland I had been studying production engineering but these studies came to an abrupt halt. There was nothing like the internet or even correspondence courses then. For six years I did not even contemplate furthering my education because I thought to myself why would you need a qualification with what the mines paid in those days?”

“However in 1973 I joined RISCO (Rhodesia Iron & Steel Company – now known as ZISCO) where I was mentored by such people as George Mitchell, now the owner of Geometric Intertrade and Malcolm Sanderson, our chief training officer at that time. Both of them encouraged me to start studying again and I thank them for doing so. This paid dividends as I became the youngest Section Manager at RISCO and went on to lecture part time in steel making and casting practice for The City and Guilds of London Institute.”

“Whilst still in Rhodesia I also did national service terms in the security forces, over a period of 10 years.”

“My stay in that part of Africa came to an end in 1982 when I decided to move to South Africa. I had a young family to educate and did not see a future in the country. I accepted a position at Apex Foundry, Esethebe, KwaZulu Natal as a Production Metallurgist. I was then transferred to Lennings Manganese (now Metso Minerals) as Quality Assurance Manager where I was instrumental in obtaining ISO9001 (SABS0157 in those days) accreditation for the foundry.”

“In 1992 I decided to upheave the family again when I was approached by Dimbaza Foundry, who were in need of ISO9001 accreditation, and I accepted their offer to move to the Eastern Cape where they were located.”

“I had eight wonderful years at Dimbaza but unfortunately became involved in company politics, an area in which I never shined, so the Ozz Group thought it best that I leave and that is when I moved to KEW.”

“Those that visited us at Dimbaza Foundry will not forget our meetings, especially after work at the Zama Zama. After a few hours of socialising there was no problem too big for us to solve. The truth is I learnt a lot in discussion with fellow workers and suppliers from all the supporting industries.”

“I arrived at KEW Foundries as Foundry Manager in 2000 where I was involved in a management buy-out in 2007 when previous owner George Lodder reached retirement age. I like to believe that I have played my part in the MBO team that has taken KEW Foundries to a different level. Since 2007 we have increased sales by 319% and the value of the company has increased by a staggering 12 times. I am sure that with the present team, plus the addition of Wilma Buys as the Technical Manager and Robert Bezuidenhout as the Foundry Manager, KEW Foundries will continue to grow.”

“I have had a happy and successful life in the steel and foundry industry. To what I attribute it is simple, I believe in partnerships with all the players. For example the manufacturer, customer, supplier and other services industries, for without the support of any one of them, the others will struggle to succeed.”

“My biggest fear for the industry is the fast escalating costs. Over the past five years, our labour costs have increased by 50%, whereas Western European labour costs have increased by only 10% over the same period.”

“In addition electricity price hikes of, on average 25% a year since 2008, have eradicated our historic low-price energy advantage. Our industrial energy costs are now above those of our major competitors in other countries.”

“My wife Angela has not been well, which is one of the reasons that I have retired slightly prematurely. She is now recovering and we are looking forward to retiring to Marloth Park, Mpumalanga and spending some time with the animals. One of my great loves, as well as being a hobby, is photography and they (the wild animals) are great subjects.”

For further details contact KEW Foundries on TEL: 053 841 0474.