Remembering Benno Krieg

Yet another prominent figure in the forestry industry - Benno Krieg – has passed away as a result of Covid-19. Benno passed on Sunday 25 July 2021 in Windhoek, while he was on holiday.

Benno was a colourful character and forest engineering specialist who played a leading role in mechanising Komatiland’s forestry harvesting operations a few years back. He was very knowledgeable and highly opinionated, and was always asking the tough questions at forestry symposiums and conferences.

Benno held a Bachelor’s Degree in Nature Conservation and a Forestry B.Sc from the University of Stellenbosch, where he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Forest Engineering (M.Sc).

Benno launched his career in forestry with the Department of Forestry in Sabie, Nelspruit and Louis Trichardt, as a district manager and researcher. He spent over two decades (from 1994 to 2015) as a forestry engineer with Komatiland Forests, the commercial wing of the South African Forestry Company (SAFCOL). During this period Benno was responsible for introducing cut-to-length mechanized harvesting systems for both clearfell and thinning operations on Komatiland’s Mpumalanga plantations.

After leaving Komatiland Forests, Benno joined Bostek harvesting contractors as GM and consultant for around two years. Francois Roos, who worked with Benno at Bostek, commented: “A friend, colleague, advisor, team member, mentor, and bank of information has passed on and left a void no person can fill. He was very knowledgeable on all aspects of machinery and always contributed enthusiastically to any project he was asked to assist with. Numerous forestry handbooks, booklets, manuals, and guidelines had his name rightfully added and these will continue to guide operations and people for years to come. Benno always helped where he could and loved sharing his knowledge. He was strong-willed, opinionated, hardworking and determined, and always ready to share and give generously. He was continuously searching for new ways, methods, angles, and information, keeping him up to date and always relevant. He was convinced there must be a better, more refined way of doing things. He would number all versions of his workings and meticulously file them in sequence. A good argument and discussion with Benno would always leave you richer and with many positives. His smile and laughter which filled our offices, meetings, classrooms, boardrooms, lecture halls and vehicles will be missed.”

After his stint at Bostek Benno moved to Hitachi Construction Machinery as the Nelspruit Area Service Representative in 2019. His role was control of the Nelspruit Service Department with the responsibilities of after-market support for repairs and servicing of Hitachi excavators, wheeled loaders and off-highway trucks. Included in his portfolio was satellite monitoring of units in the field, customer liaison and advice, and pre-delivery inspections of new machines.

Richard Blaylock, Branch Manager at Hitachi Construction Machinery Southern Africa Co (Pty) Ltd, recalls: “From inception Benno was noted for his infectious laugh which would reverberate throughout the offices. Never did he announce his arrival; his laugh would give him away. On the work front, he will be sadly missed for his astute approach to planning and execution in typical German fashion. Benno’s philosophy was to learn from mistakes and do things once and do it correctly. This was coupled with his motivation of staff - always in a friendly manner - and he never had a bad word to say, an indication of his dedication and hard-working nature.”

Ronald Heath of Forestry South Africa had this to say about Benno: “Throughout his career Benno constructively contributed to our sector. He will be remembered for his prominent role in FESA and his contribution to the establishment of the FSA Applied Operations Committee.”

A private family man, Benno enjoyed photography and nature. A devoted Christian, he always shared his Christian values and never compromised on what he believed was right.

Benno leaves his wife Noreen and sons Stefan and Daniel.

BIG trees have fallen

By Chris Chapman

The passing of three forestry icons within days of each other has rocked the South African forestry industry to the core. News of the passing of Jaap Steenkamp, Piet van Zyl and Benno Krieg has come as a shock to stakeholders already struggling to keep the wheels of business turning in the wake of civil unrest in KZN and Gauteng and a country-wide Level 4 lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All three are well known and respected leaders in the forestry sector who take with them a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Jaap fulfilled so many roles, but was perhaps best known for establishing and leading the SA Forestry Contractors Association for over three decades. He was also a well loved lecturer in the NMU forestry programme, businessman, inventor and developer of innovative pitting and planting equipment now widely used across South Africa and beyond.

Benno was a very knowledgeable and capable forest engineer who was largely responsible for transitioning Komatiland Forests’ forestry operations from motor-manual to fully mechanised systems, and went on to make an impact at Bostek and Hitachi.

Piet van Zyl was CEO of York Timbers, a leading, integrated forestry business with extensive plantations and sawmill operations in Mpumalanga.

I didn’t know Piet personally but have listened to him speak at forestry functions and field days over the past few years, and he always demonstrated a deep understanding of the issues, challenges and opportunities facing the forest sector, and struck me as being a solutions-oriented person with a ‘can-do’ attitude. In addition to his role at York he played a leadership role within the wider industry environment.

Back in the pre-COVID days when we still had forestry field days, symposiums and conferences, one couldn’t help but notice Jaap and Benno. They were both very knowledgeable and always had a lot to say about almost every aspect of forestry. They were often the ones asking presenters searching questions that helped us get to the heart of the matter, keeping everyone on their toes in the process.

All three of these guys have made a huge contribution to the development of the forest sector in South Africa, and the benefits of their work will continue to reverberate through the industry for many years to come. They had so much knowledge and experience, and thankfully have passed some of that knowledge on to others who will continue the good work.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to their families, friends and colleagues.

Three big trees have fallen in the forest.