GEORGE NEWS - He was initially contracted to beautify the entrances of George with plants and features. However, twenty years later, Parks and Recreation manager Radie Loubser is retiring from a job that had been mostly behind the scenes, but with results for everyone to see.
In 2000, a time that saw George become one of the fastest growing towns in the country, Radie had a hand in some of the most significant projects that will continue to benefit the city for decades to come.
He was already known to town officials through his dealings for Forestry and his own business, and came highly commended as "a guy who could get things done but was a bit of cowboy", in the words of the then director of Civil Engineering, Basil Steyn.
The cowboy-part turned out to be a good fit since the project required some out-of-the box thinking.
"The budget was limited but with so much potential, and so many people willing to help. To this day there are private citizens, businesses and organisations across the municipal area who donate plants, keep sidewalks and clear riverbeds out of their own pocket -they are the reason I continue to believe in the future of this city," says Radie.
These projects include gardens and features at the three main entrances of George and islands in York Street, the upgrading of facilities at beaches and improvements at the Gwaiing and Herold's Bay camping grounds.
Radie also played a significant role in the development of the Kaptein Dikkop Amphitheatre in Pacaltsdorp, clearing the plantation where the Denneoord Fire Emergency Airbase was to be established and the clearing of alien vegetation (61% of the riverbeds that flow through the city) before funding stopped.
He helped to negotiate an R8-million profit for the harvesting of plantation on municipal ground near the Garden Route Dam and worked with local businesses to beautify sidewalks across the city.
Love of the outdoors
Born and bred in Stellenbosch, Radie's love and appreciation of the outdoors was established while travelling across South Africa with his land surveyor dad, Coenie. He obtained a BSc Honours degree in Forestry at Stellenbosch University and spent several of the following years working for the national Department Forestry in some of the country's largest plantations including Sabie, the former homelands of Kangwane and Zululand and eventually Knysna in 1988. From here he managed the plantations around George, including the sawmill.
"When the department recalled me to the head office in Pretoria, my wife Delène and I could not imagine returning to city life - our kids were growing up in this beautiful place with good schools and wonderful people - so I 'retired' at age 38, moved to George, and started my own forestry-related business," says Radie.
Leaving a legacy of beauty, Radie and Delène now intend moving to Kleinmond to be closer to their sons, Coenie and Oswald, and grandchildren.
"George has been a wonderful place to live and we will always think of it with nostalgia, but we are also excited for this new chapter in our lives," he says.
Diverse skill set
Radie lectured Wood Technology at Port Elizabeth Technicon Saasveld campus (now NMU George), built houses and managed forestry projects. "For me, one of the greatest benefits of working for a government department as opposed to the private sector was the diverse skill set I developed instead of specialising," says Radie.
"Managing state forest meant doing everything from nursery practice, planting, tending and harvesting trees, and running sawmills to building roads, overseeing staff housing, finances, firefighting and conservation - and it is this set of skills that eventually led me to George Municipality."
A word from Radie
"There are so many challenges for a fast-growing city, not even considering factors such as Covid-19, major economic concerns, political interference and the spirit of vandalism and illegal dumping that are very discouraging. I believe the ongoing hope for our city remains our people.
There are so many opportunities, so many ways to contribute to the greater good. I still have so many ideas for projects and initiatives that can develop and benefit our city, but I have accepted that I must pass the baton. I am leaving the section in competent hands and have very high expectations of them.
There are so many people whom I want to thank and honour, but I know I will skip some important ones, so please consider yourselves thanked - you know who you are. People I really enjoyed working with include former councillor Jurie Bezuidenhout (a true gentleman), former mayor Flip de Swardt (for his driving force), Councillor Marlene Barnardt (for being decent and reasonable) and Speaker Gerrit Pretorius (for patience and endurance).
Colleagues that deserve a mention include Basil Steyn (people-orientated), the late Harold Basson (professionalism, friendliness and sense of responsibility), Community Services secretary Ilse Lubbe (commitment and sacrifice) and tea lady Susan Veldsman (lovely nature, absolute trustworthiness and willingness to serve others)."
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