Original Research

Town engineers in South Africa before 1910, with reference to water supply

Harri Mäki
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 9, No 1 | a222 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v9i1.222 | © 2013 Harri Mäki | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 March 2016 | Published: 31 July 2013

About the author(s)

Harri Mäki, North-West University (Vaal), South Africa

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This article looks at the town engineers in South Africa prior to Union in 1910. It briefly examines the growth in the number of municipalities and town engineers in the country in this period and investigates the background and training of these engineers; why municipalities decided to appoint an engineer; and what kind of appointment processes were followed. Finally the relations between engineers and town councils and the prevailing circumstances at the end of the engineers’ tenures is studied. The article also presents ten specific cases which have reference to the development of water supply. It emerges that most early town engineers received training via apprenticeship for the positions they held, and that there was added pressure from elected councillors in municipalities who were prone to monitor assiduously how officials were spending public money. It is also clear that engineers who did not have earlier municipal experience were bound to have problems in their interaction with town councillors.

Keywords: Municipal history, civil engineering, water supply, sanitation, Cape Colony, Natal, Orange Free State, Transvaal

Disciplines: History, Engineering, Public Management


Municipal history; civil engineering; water supply; sanitation; Cape Colony; Natal; Orange Free State; Transvaal


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