He came from the city. Right away we could all see that. And he came with a mission. He was going to change Bultfontein, turning it into an industrial hub. He was going to be the van der Bijl or the Motsepe of our area, maybe even the Elon Musk.
The factory he built was structured for six hundred workers, just about one hundred times the area’s next biggest enterprise. People came from all over the region to see it rising from our dust. And it was big, only two stories high, but long and broad and clearly able to accommodate all those workers. Compared to other local businesses, it was a giant. Even our biggest local supermarket rarely has more than one worker at the till and two or three customers visiting.
The first time he asked advice of one of the locals was a bit late for what he had in mind. “What do you think?” he asked a man who ran a three-person electricity contracting business close by.
“Very impressive,” the electrician said. “I just wonder where your workers are going to sleep though.”
The would-be industrialist waved a hand that was intended to take in the entire area. “On the plots,” he said vaguely.
“Have you asked the plot owners?”
Well, he had not, and it soon became clear that the plot owners did not have much in the way of vacant accommodation and none were going to build extra to house his factory workers.
His electrician friend’s next question was the one that exercises the minds of most small holders, every day. “Water?” he asked. “Where’s your water going to come from?”
”From the city’s water main of course, like everyone else.”
“Everyone else who connects to the water main lives in the city,” he was told. “The city’s water main doesn’t pass here. Our water comes from bore holes that we sink ourselves.”
“That’s it then,” he said, his face brightening for a moment. “Is it expensive?”
“Hell, yes. On top of that, most boreholes around here only provide enough water for the owner’s family and maybe a worker’s family, and at most a garden.”
“Are you telling me I’ll need a lot of boreholes?”
“More than one, and not close together. They collect siphoned water from round about.”
“No one told me all this,” the prospective industrialist said. “One thing I have looked after is our need for latrines.”
They were perfectly good latrines, neat and spacious enough, with doors that latch. “Into what will they empty?” the electrician asked.
“The city’s…” But the other man was already shaking his head. “Doesn’t come here either?”
“I’m afraid not.”
The building for the factory is a good one, well-constructed, a sturdy piece of work and it will certainly house six hundred cut-make-and-trim workers and their machines. It was completed two years ago and is still empty. With no water, no accommodation for the workers and no place to dump their excrement, it may stand empty for a long time to come.
“From his point of view, it’s a disaster,” the electrician told me, “but hell we do not need another six hundred people here unless they are properly looked after.”