By Willem Petzer.

This South African could have been the richest men in the world alongside of the Rothschilds, Carnegie  and others.

Hendrik was the greatest Engineer South Africa has ever produced.  After he invented the first intercontinental Telephone in America, had he stayed there, he could have become one of the Robber Barons, alongside Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Rockefeller, but he decided to come back to South Africa and build our Industrial sector from nothing, after the devastation of the Boer war and great depression.

Hendrik was the son of a Farm worker (not a farmer), who saved up to buy his first oxwagon to start transporting goods between Pretoria, Kimberley, and Cape Town.  It was on the back of this oxwagon that Hendrik taught himself Mathematics, and Physics.  He then studied Engineering in Stellenbosch at the age of 16, and studied for his PhD in Germany, at Leipzig University, at the age of 21.

After completing his PhD, he went to work for Bell Labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a company that employed 15 Nobel prize scientists up until today.  It was here where Van der Bijl invented the first intercontinental telephone, by creating a telephone able to make a phone call from New York to Paris.

He was asked in 1920, by Gen JBM Hertzog to return to South Africa, to help with the struggling Industrial sector.  Leaving riches and a prosperous career in America behind, Van der Bijl came to South Africa with nothing.

He was the founding chairman of Eskom, leading the company to become the first to power a major city with electric streetlights.  The first in the world.  Under his leadership, Eskom, which he started from nothing, became the largest and most profitable Electricity provider in the world, powering every African country as high up as Ethiopia.  He stayed on as the Chairman of Eskom until his death in 1948.

Other companies Van der Bijl created and ran were Iscor, Amcor, the Industrial Development Corporation (later becoming the CSIR), Transnet, and Safmarine.

Had Van der Bijl built up these companies in his private name, he would have been richer than Rockefeller at that stage.  Funnily enough, Hertzog suggested Van der Bijl start these companies as private companies.

But Van der Bijl did not believe in Capitalism.  He was a nationalist.  He believed in public utilities, for the people, by the people, as he outlined in his 1919 paper "Scientific research and industrial development."

When he died in 1948, he had little more than a house and a car to his name.  Today, the legacy of Hendrik van der Bijl is plundered through corruption, state capture, mismanagement and looting. but despite stealing 100's of billions, and enormous mismanagement, poiticians, syndicates, and other criminals have still not been able to destroy the vast wealth created for this country by Hendrik van der Bijl.

Let him be our example.
Hendrik van der Bijl, and many other greats like him, are the people we should be looking up to during this time when we feel like the entire country is being destroyed by corruption and incompetence. 

Let us learn from great men like Hendrik van der Bijl, and create instead of criticising. Let us plan and implement today as once was built, from nothing, by great men like Hendrik van der Bijl
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