City con­cedes de­feat in rat race

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - SHAUN SMILLIE

FOR two weeks there was a show­down in the Msawawa in­for­mal set­tle­ment, just out­side Jo­han­nes­burg.

It was high noon though it played out at night and the rule was sim­ple: who kills the most rats wins.

This un­likely con­test pit­ted Joburg against a team of odd­ball in­ven­tors, who had de­vel­oped a trap they be­lieved could fi­nally end Gaut­eng’s rat prob­lem.

Across the test area, 20 ex­am­ples of what the in­ven­tors had named the Hamelin trap were placed along­side wire cages, the coun­cil’s pre­ferred method to nab ro­dents.

After 14 days in Septem­ber, the in­ven­tors claimed vic­tory.

“We beat them hands down,” re­calls Diederik van’t Hof: “Their traps got stolen and dis­ap­peared.”

The fig­ure was 25 rats for the City and 81 for the in­ven­tors.

Jan van Niekerk, an op­er­a­tions man­ager in the City’s vec­tor con­trol unit, who was run­ning the trial, re­luc­tantly ad­mit­ted the Hamelins did kill a lot of rats.

For the team, this was their Eureka and viva mo­ment. It had taken them 37 at­tempts to come up with a rat trap that was both cheap and deadly.

The Hamelin is the cre­ation of a team com­pris­ing two pro­fes­sional speak­ers, a kilt-maker-cum-en­gi­neer and an ex-tour guide. It was the two pro­fes­sional speak­ers, Abel Muk­w­evho and Sim­phiwe Makapela, who got it all rolling.

“We were sit­ting in Soweto, which has a lot of rats. So we started think­ing of a plan of how can we get rid of th­ese rats,” says Muk­w­evho.

The two came up with a de­sign and patented it. Then they looked around for some­one who could work with them on the project. This led them to Van’t Hof, who now runs a com­pany that cleans ceil­ings and roofs. And with en­gi­neer Eg­bert Harmse, the rest is his­tory.

The trap works in a man­ner sim­i­lar to the swing-top dust­bin lid. The top is flush with the ground and when the rat walks over it, its weight causes the door to open and the rat to fall into a bucket be­low.

PIC­TURE: MATTHEWS BALOYI/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Eg­bert Harmse, Diederik van‘t Hof, Abel Muk­w­evho, God­win Jere, De­nis Mun­thali and Sim­phiwe Makapela; the team be­hind the rat trap.

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