Who's Who

WHO'S WHO .....

In the Explosives Industry

 This page was updated on 21 May 2007





One of the aims of the National Institute for Explosives Technology is to recognise excellence among its members and industry. This is acknowledged by inviting them to present commemorative papers at conferences on subjects of their own choice. These papers are presented in honour of two of our pioneers, namely William Russel Quinan and Dr Jean de Villiers. In exceptional cases the NIXT golden and silver medals are awarded. 

The Golden Medal is awarded to those that have made outstanding contributions over a long period of time, while the Silver Medal is awarded in recognition of excellent academic studies and research. 

The explosives industry is invited to nominate likely candidates for these awards. Local and international excellence is also recognised by way of invited papers at symposia.




NIXT Honorary Golden Medal and Certificate 

The National Institute for Explosives Technology (NIXT) Gold Medal Award was presented by Petrus Cloete, Chairperson of NIXT, to Mr. AF Simon at the NIXT Conference of 19 April 2007 at Denel Dynamics, Centurion. The Gold Medal Award was made in recognition of his valuable contribution to the South African Explosives Industry over many years. Tony dedicated this award to his loyal friends at Naschem.

Tony joined Naschem in 1980. He was a respected General Manager. In 2004 he was seconded to Denel Corporate Office to act in the post of Group Executive Director: Denel Land Systems. During this period he was instrumental in the formation of Denel Munitions. He served as acting CEO until his retirement in December 2006.

Tony Simon was one of the first students to complete the 4-year Technical Munitions Diploma Course in South Africa. All in all Tony Simon has spent some 39 years in the field of Ammunition and Explosives.  

Past Awards

NIXT Gold Medal: 

Mr Boet Coetzee
Dr Vernon Joynt
Mr Willem Pelser
Mr Mervyn Traut

Mr Chris Vermeulen

Mr Herman van Dijk
Mr Tony Simon
Dr Louis van der Walt
Mr Fritz van Rooyen
Prof William Spiteri
Dr Piet Halliday
Mr Petrus Cloete

NIXT Silver Medal: 

Mr Roger de Villiers 

Presenters of the William Russel Quinan Commemorative Lecture:

Mr Terry Cotton
Professor Seddon Harrison
Dr Vernon Liddiard
Dr Henry Stein
Mr Stuart Tough

Presenters of the Dr Jean de Villiers Commemorative Lecture:

Dr Piet Bekker
Mr Tielman de Waal
Dr Vernon Joynt
Brig Pine Pienaar
Dr Tom Szendrei

The Special Award of Merit for NIXT Members

These awards were made in recognition of these Members's support and active inputs over many years.

Dr Boet Coetzee   (SAFEX)
Capt John Edwards (South African Naval Ordnance)
Dr Piet Halliday (African Explosives Ltd)
Mr James Moolman (Denel Land Systems Western Cape)
Mr Willem Pelser  (PF Training Consultants)
Mr Mervyn Traut  (African Explosives Ltd - Retired)
Mr Herman van Dijk  Chief Inspector of Explosives -  Retired)
Mr Neels Viljoen.(Denel Land Systems Western Cape)


Hailing from Maryland in the United States of America, this West Pointer, soldier, dynamite manufacturer, inventor, chemist and engineer came to South Africa at the turn of the century to set up the Cape Explosives Works for the De Beers Consolidated Mines. This led to the establishment of a commercial explosives factory which has played a significant part in the growth of industries requiring explosives in South Africa and countries beyond our borders.
    His knowledge of the chemistry of explosives and acids, with relevance to their behaviour and production, as well as his engineering of plant and equipment established him as a leading and outstanding explosives technologist. Many of his inventions are still in use today. With his innovative approaches to management, research and development, training and many other disciplines, he innovated and set standards that were far ahead of his times. 



Dr Jean de Villiers, founder of the former Unit for Applied Chemistry at the CSIR, led this very successful research group for seventeen years. During this phase of his life he he received many medals and awards for his contributions to combatting terrorism. The Order of the Star of South Africa (Commander) and the South African Police Medal for Combatting Terrorism are among these. Dr de Villiers also initiated the large explosives and arms symposia previously staged, the first of these attended by 120 delegates in 1977. This was followed by a series of Rapid Physical Effects Symposia. 

On Friday 2 March 1984, while attending a Strategic Studies Symposium he died of a heart attack. He was 54 years old.





Dr Piet Bekker has been involved in the rise of the armaments industry right from its beginning and participated in the development of many of our highly successful systems. Educated at the University of the Free State and with a doctorate on naturally occurring polysaccharide polymers, he also qualified in systems engineering at the University of Pretoria. He started his career in the explosives industry in 1971 with research on the manufacture of nitrocellulose as applied to propellants. As development Manager of Kentron-South he managed the design, development and production of two generations of air-air missile, motor and warhead systems, apart from many other systems and technologies. As Explosives Manager he was responsible for safety in the handling of explosives and certification of the safety of explosives containing equipment delivered to the SADF. 

In 1983 Dr Bekker joined the newly established Systems Engineering Division at Armscor head office where technical and management contributions were made to a wide variety of weapon systems. The aero-ballistics group residing at Armatron Systems was acknowledged as a Centre of Excellence in 1998. He was appointed by Armscor as the first chairman of the SA Military Ordnance Council and also contributed to the SA Buro of Military Standards.

As founder member of NIXT, he played a major role in the history of this Institute, acting as Chairman over the period October 1992 to August 1993. In 1993 Dr Bekker left the services of the Armscor group to join the Transvaal Suiker Beperk (TSB), a sugar producing concern in Malelane, as Product Development Manager.

Dr Bekker presented the Dr Jean de Villiers Commemorative Lecture at the 4th International Symposium on Explosives Technology (NIXT ’92). The title of his paper was: Development of the South African armaments industry with special reference to ballistics.



Boet graduated in Chemical Engineering at the University of Natal in 1970. He commenced his career at AECI’s Research Department at Modderfontein where he did applied research in commercial explosives for six years. After serving as section manager in several explosives departments at Modderfontein Factory, he became the deputy project manager responsible for the establishment of newly decentralised explosives factories. In 1982 he was appointed Production Manager: Fuse, and in 1986 Production Director of AECI Explosives and Chemicals, one of AECI’s major operating companies.   

With the restructuring of the AECI Group in 1993, he became Managing Director of AECI Operations Services, the AECIubsidiary responsible for managing business and site services on the group’s major multi-business sites at Modder- fontein, Somerset West, Umbogintwini and Richards Bay. 

On international level Boet has been involved with SAFEX over many years, presenting a number of papers in the process. In 2003 he was elected Chairman of this prestigious organisation. hrough the Membership of SAFEX he has maintained contact with manufacturers of commercial explosives in many countries. Boet also played a valuable role during the structuring of the explosives courses at the Technikon Pretoria.

In recognition for his inputs into the explosives industry and unfailing support of NIXT since its founding, NIXT Management decided to present Boet Coetzee with the Golden Honorary Award.

He presented the 1998 William Quinan Commemorative Lecture and received the NIXT Golden Honorary Award at the NIXT 10th anniversary function. The topic of his paper was: Quinan - Relic of Yesterday of Reality of Tommorow.

In November 2004 Dr Coetzee received a Doctorate from the University of Trente in the Netherlands. The title of his dissertation was: Competitive Strategies for Multiple International Estates.



Terry Cotton received a masters degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1963. He then joined South African Titan Products, followed by a spell at Samuel Jones Co in London. In 1966 he joined National Chemical Products in Germiston after which he joined the South African Bureau of Standards in 1974 as Principal Scientist. He was appointed Director: Department of Chemical Technology in 1989.

Terry, who was instrumental in making SABS the first Corporate Member of NIXT, retired from the SABS in 1998.

He presented the William Quinan Commemorative Lecture at the 4th International Symposium on Explosives Technology (NIXT ’92) in Pretoria in 1992. The topic of his paper was: Standardization with particular reference to the permitted explosives industry in South Africa. 



Roger started his career in the military, spending seven years in the field of munitions as a Technical Officer, being involved with inspection, repair, demolitions and proofing of ammunition and explosives. At the beginning of 1990 Roger joined ISCOR at Sishen Iron Ore Mine as a technician in the field of drilling and blasting. As a student in Explosives Technology at the Technikon Pretoria, he passed the majority of his diploma subjects with distinction.

In 1992, Roger obtained his National Higher Diploma in Explosives Technology, obtaining distinctions in five of the six subjects.

He is presently enrolled for the Masters Diploma in Explosives Technology. He received a NIXT Certificate of Merit, as well as a Silver Medal in recognition of his excellent academic achievements. Roger held a post as Master Technician, Mining Development at Sishen Iron Mine researching the optimization of blasting operations. At present he is acting as Manager: Mining for Moolman Brothers. 



Tielman obtained a Masters degree in chemistry at the University of Stellenbosch in 1968 after which he joined the Armscor group at Somchem. In 1976 he was appointed Manager: Propulsion, followed by appointment as Manager of the Krantzkop project. In 1980 he became Assistent General Manager.

In 1982 he joined the Armscor head office becoming the General Manager of Kentron (Pty) Ltd in 1984.

This was followed in 1987 by appointment as Senior General Manager:  Vehicles and Weapons Systems at Head office, with responsibility for LIW, PMP, Somchem, Musgrave, Swartklip, Naschem. This also entailed acquisition on behalf of the SA Army, SAAF, SAP and SG with respect to all vehicles and weapons systems. 

In 1991 Tielman was appointed as Executive Director: Weapons Systems, acting as Chairman of the Board of Directors of LIW, PMP, Somchem, Swartklip and Naschem. This was followed by appointment as Director: Acquisition, and eventually as Executive General Manager in 1992. In 1997, after a long and productive spell in the arms industry, Tielman retired from Armscor.

In the early part of his career Tielman was the author of various publications on military matters. He was also a member of the South African Academy for Arts and Science and the Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Societies.

In recognition of his services to the industry, Tielman was invited to present the Dr Jean de Villiers Commemorative Paper at the 5th International Symposium on Explosives Technology (NIXT ’94) in Pretoria in 1994. The topic of his paper was: The role of technology in a new South Africa.

Mr de Waal is now retired.



Professor Harrison started his academic career at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1948 obtaining a Ph.D in Chemical engineering with distinction in 1952. This was followed by a Ph.D obtained from the University of Cambridge in 1958. He also attended a course in Programme Development at the University of Cape Town in 1973.

He joined the Union Corporation in 1952 as research metallurgist, and after his studies in the UK, in 1958 as research officer at AECI.

In 1981 he was appointed Technical Manager. In 1982 he joined the ranks of the University of Stellenbosch as senior lecturer in Chemical Engineering, being appointed Professor in Chemical Engineering in 1983. 

During his spell at AECI he was involved with the co-ordination, research and development, production, marketing and selling of the wide range of industrial chemicals both in South Africa and abroad. His research centred on explosives, plastics, inorganic materials, organic chemicals, pesticides, electronics, engineering and analytical chemical research and development. In the process he handled career development and planning for about 150 chemical engineering graduates. He is the author of 20 technical papers, many reports on technical investigations and also presented 24 lectures and addresses on a number of topics.

At the end of 1993 Professor Harrison retired from the University of Stellenbosch but returned the next year on an ad hoc basis, eventually being appointed as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemical Engineering. From 1994 to 1998 he lectured on a part-time basis at the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town and occasionally also at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom.

On behalf of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, London, and the Engineering Council of South Africa, he visited each of the Departments of Chemical Engineering at South African universities at least once between 1993 and 1998 for the purpose of accrediting their Bachelors Degrees for professional recognition.

Apart from membership a number of societies he also acted a a member of the Council of the Technikon Pretoria and member of their Finance Committee.

In recognition of Professor Harrison's inputs with regards to the explosives industry he was invited to present the William Quinan Commemorative Lecture at the 5th International Symposium on Explosives Technology (NIXT ’94). The title of his paper was: Ingenuity, invention and innovation in the explosives industry.



Dr Vernon Joynt received his B.Sc. And M.Sc. (Chemistry) at the University of Pretoria and in 1963 he was awarded his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry at the University of South Africa. He also attended a large number of military courses. Much of his military work was done whilst employed by the CSIR. The group which he headed became Mechem, a member of the Armscor group in 1988, but transferred to become a Division of Denel in 1992.

As a civilian working for a civilian organisation, Dr Joynt received several military and police commendations. In 1978 he received both the commendations of the Head of the Army and the Head of the Defence Force.

In 1980 he received the Police Medal for the Prevention of Terrorism and in 1981 recognition for his services to Armscor in the field of armaments. This was for the development of the first mine protected vehicles. He was awarded the Order of the Star of South Africa (Civil), Commander in 1982, and in 1983 he was one of the three merit prize winners in the CSIR. In 1989 he was awarded the Armscor prize for the development of MEDDS, the Mechem Explosive and Drug Detection System, which combines chemical concentration of vapours with the acute sense of smell of specially trained dogs.

Dr Joynt is responsible for a large number of innovative military designs. One comprises the first operational rocket propelled anti-tank minefield line charge breaching system used by the South African forces. His teams also designed and qualified manpack and manportable line charge systems. On the vehicle side Dr Joynt designed the first wedge shaped mine protected vehicle, the Hyena. He and his team subsequently designed and initiated the production of the Hippo, Buffel, Casspir and Swerwer personnel carriers. The mine protected ambulance, Rinkhals, and a series of civilian mine protected vehicles called Ribbok and the Rooibok were also products of the unit at the CSIR under Dr Joint. The latter were used to protect South African Farmers against terrorist land-mines. A very effective mine-sweeper system for the patrol of roads were also developed. Some of the more recent lines developed by Mechem include the Mamba series of vehicles. Mine and armour protected, their use include both military and civilian applications.

Mechem, now operating as DefenceTek, is  internationally recognised for its humanitarian landmine clearing expertise, which has enabled this Division of Denel to accept various contracts which could have appeared impossible to other organisations.

Dr Joynt was the first receiver of the NIXT Golden Honorary Award presented at the 5th International Symposium on Explosives Technology (NIXT ’94) in 1994. At this symposium he also presented a paper: The business politics of clearing mine Fields.



Dr Vernon Liddiard obtained a B.Sc Hons in chemistry from the University of Rhodes in 1965 followed by a Ph.D in physical chemistry from the University of Cape Town in 1969. In 1977 a MBL was awarded to him by the University of South Africa.

Vernon Joined AECI in 1960 as laboratory assistant at the Somerset West factory.This was followed by the following appointments:Technical Officer in the Research Department in1966; Technical Officer: Detonator and Fuse Department at the Modderfontein factory in 1972; Section Manager: Detonator and Fuse Department in 1973; Production Manager: Detonators in 1975; Assistant Technical Manager: Technical Department in 1978; Technical Representative at the AECI London Office in 1979

In 1982 Dr Liddiard was appointed as Operations Manager: Explosives; as Acting Director: Explosives in 1984; as Director: Explosives in 1985; and as Managing Director of AECI Explosives & Chemicals in 1989. In 1998 he was appointed as Director on the AECI Main Board of Directors. He is now retired.



Willem’s involvement with the explosives industry goes back as far as 1970 when he was appointed lecturer at the Technikon Pretoria. With a B.Sc degree in chemistry and mathematics obtained at the Potchefstroom University and some industrial experience as a chemist, one of his first tasks was to develop a course in explosives technology. Spending considerable time in the explosives industry and with their support, the well-known National Diploma in Explosives Technology was born, eventually followed by higher qualifications. Willem may rightly be regarded as the founder and ‘father’ of training in explosives technology in South Africa. 

During his stay at the Technikon he obtained a Masters degree in chemistry (with distinction) as well as a post-graduate Diploma in Education. As Head of the Department of Explosives Technology, he was also appointed as Director of the School of Chemical Sciences.

In 1984 he left the services of the Technikon to join the armaments industry. In 1992 he became part of the Senior Management in the newly founded Denel group. He first served with Kentron and then became MD of Advena. In 1993 he was appointed Managing Director of Naschem, but had to retire in 1996 due to ill health.

During his time with the armaments industry he completed numerous courses locally and abroad in areas like general management, advanced financial management, project management, business alliances, negotiation skills, etc. He also attended the Joint Staff Course of the SANDF where he was adjudicated as the best overall candidate.

Willem has particular interest in education and training and was involved in this field in one or other capacity for the best part of his career. After leaving the Technikon he acted as national examiner or moderator for various subjects in the field of Explosives Technology, also acting as tutor for many post graduate and post diploma students. During his years at Naschem he initiated a training project for science and mathematics teachers with poor qualifications in these subjects at the Potchefstroom University. This initiative has grown into a very successful venture which will eventually produce many more school leavers with science and mathematics as subjects.

Since 1997 Willem acted as training consultant to the Denel group surveying the industry’s need for training in explosives technology. The present series of courses is an outcome of this thoroughly executed task. They were painstakingly developed and taken through the demanding accreditation exercise through the South African Accreditation Association (SAQA). Initially presented through the Technikon SA, they now, after the merger, are hosted by the University of South Africa (UNISA). Any member of the explosices industry is now able pursue studies up to doctorate level.

Willem was also a co-founder of NIXT, member of its Advisory Forum handling its  and  responsible for training activities.

Willem presented the Jean de Villiers Commemorative Lecture at the NIXT 10th Anniversary function. The title of his paper was: Training in explosives sciences: An overview and future perspectives.

In 1996 Willem was taken ill with a heart virus and had to undergo a heart transplant. For the next ten years his time was taken up with the structuring of courses and a variety of other commitments. Towards the end of 2005 his health deteriorated considerably and on 9 February 2006 he sadly passed away at the age of 63.

Willem was truly a man who put his heart into everything he did!  



The late Brigadier Pine Pienaar started his career in the South African Defence Force in 1939 as armaments instructor at the Military College of the South African Instructional Corps, a position he held for 17 years. In the early fifties the BSA factory was founded with Brigadier Pienaar involved with the acceptance of certain equipment. During this time he was seconded to the Quartermaster General in order to gain knowledge and experience with the manufacture of armaments. This included a specialist course in the UK.

He was subsequently appointed in the technical services of the South African Defence Force. In 1962 he was appointed as SSO Proofing, which intensified his inputs with regards to the manufacture of ammunition. 

The refining of our ammunition over many decades accompanied by rigorous quality control culminated in South Africa's successful entry into the world markets, which also offered an excellent example to other disciplines in industry. In 1975 Brigadier Pienaar was appointed as Director of Explosives, a position he held until his retirement in 1979. He still remained involved with the industry by being appointed as technical advisor in Armscor's Directorate Quality . He gave many lectures at the various manufacturers of armaments on the internal and external ballistics of ammunition, fragmentation of grenades, the various types of grenades and their filling, propellants en methods of initiation.

Brigadier Pienaar always believed that ammunition constitute living tools that can be used to create a work of art, even though in destructive way. He rightfully deserve the title: Father of the South African Ammunition. His death in 1997 meant a great loss to South Africa's armaments and defence industries.

Brigadier Pienaar presented the Dr Jeanne de Villiers Commemorative Lecture at NIXT '90 in Pretoria.



Henry's studies at the University of Cape Town was interrupted by a spell in the S A Defence Force over the period 1940 to 1946, with secondment as Commissioned Officer to the British Army. He was awarded the Military Cross in Italy when serving with the 5th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment.

After obtaining a B Sc in chemistry at the University of Cape Town in 1946, Henry Stein attended Cambridge University from 1947 to 1949 where he read for the Natural Sciences Tripos, Part II.

He graduated for the BA and subsequently MA. A year's research work at Cambridge was followed by another spell at CSIR, resulting in a Ph D from the UCT in 1955. His research involved the setting up of the Radio Chemistry Laboratory in the NCRL in close association with the NPL.

Dr Stein joined AECI as Section Leader of the Physical Chemical / Physics Section of the research department in March 1955, retiring from this company at the end of 1983. He was soon promoted to Chief Superintendent of this group, with responsibility for analytical chemistry, analytical research, statistics, specifications and other sections. In 1957 he took over the Explosives Research Group to do work associated with the production of explosives and accessories. This was followed by his taking over of the Chemical Engineering Group, which included the manufacture of fertiliser. This included the beneficiation of phosphatic minerals as used for superphosphate manufacture. In 1961 he was promoted to Production Manager in the Blasting Explosives Department, with responsibility for a staff of over 2 000 people. In 1963 he was transferred to the Development Department as Assistent Development Manager in charge of projects for new explosives or accessory plants that were built in South Africa and Zambia. In 1966 he was transferred to the Research Department as Assistant Research Manager with responsibility for direction of the research of plastics, new ventures, chemicals and analytical groups. He was finally appointed as Research and Technical Manager (Explosives) with responsibility for all research and development in the field of explosives, accessories, electronics and engineering.

Dr Stein was member of a number of professional societies and served on several committees. He has published extensively with 20 scientific papers to his credit, apart from many in-house research reports. He retired at the end of 1983, still acting in a consulting capacity and as technical writer in support of a number of projects ranging from military projects, mining plants and the AECI soda ash project in Botswana.

Dr Henry Stein presented the William Quinan Commemorative Lecture at the 1st International Symposium on Explosives Technology (NIXT '91). The topic of his paper was: William Russel Quinan 1848 to 1910.



After graduating from the University of Cape Town in 1960, Stuart Tough started his career with the AECI’s Somerset West Factory in the Explosives Laboratory, covering in the course of his duties the analysis of their full range of explosives. At the beginning of 1963 his production career started and progressed with the operation of the nitroglycerin, PETN, detonating cord and cordite propellants plants.

After 1965 he operated plants at the newly established Midland Factory at Sasolburg, producing polyethylene, cyanide and peroxides, and later the chlorine, VCM, Arcton and HF complex.

During the late 1960's Stuart’s production experience was again utilized at the Somerset West Factory on explosives, propellants and high explosives plants.

Between 1972 and 1978 he managed the Explosives, accessories and chemicals department at AECI’s Somerset West Factory and thereafter moved to Modderfontein to head the Fuse and Explosives Departments and nitroglycerin factory projects. As Operations Manager: Explosives, he covered all the operation areas within AECI Explosives and linked internationally with both ICI Explosives and SAFEX as well as other safety organizations. A visit to Brazil for instance, saw him advise on the demolition of two explosives factories.

Stuart has operated a consultancy since 1996 covering SHE issues with a focus on explosives sites remediation.

Stuart is a founder member of NIXT, has served on the Management since its inception and was responsible for coining the acronym NIXT. He is the present chairman of NIXT since 1997.

Stuart presented the Quinan Commemorative Lecture at the 3rd International Symposium on Explosives Technology (NIXT ’91), the topic of his paper: Production Safety.



Mervyn matriculated at the Outeniqua High School and completed the first year B Sc (Chemistry and Physics) at the UCT in 1958. He then studied part-time and obtained a National Advanced Technical Certificate (Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and Mathematics) and a Higher Diploma in Chemistry and Industrial Administration.

He joined AECI in 1959 working in various aboratories as an Experimental Officer. This comprised analysis of a wide range of raw materials and products such as acids, fertilizers, plastics and explosives. In time he was promoted through to Laboratory Supervisor.

From 1970 he supervised Blasting Explosives and Munitions Laboratories. A few years later he managed production of various products including nitrocotton, nitroglycerine and NG based explosives . In 1978 he managed the introduction of a novel magazining and distribution system for explosives products, followed the next year by managing the production of PETN and detonating fuseIbooster. He was consulted within the company and internationally on these products, being recognized as the company custodianIexpert in this field. In 1986 he managed the Explosives Development Group involved in the development of new products.


In 1989 Mervyn was appointed Production Manager of the Somerset West Explosives Department, followed in 1997 by his appointment as General Manager, AECI Operation Services (Pty) Ltd., Somerset West. This included the management of the site remediation project.


In 2000 he retired and started working as a consultant in the management of projects, explosives and chemical remediation and safety fields, also consulting to an international group on explosives accessories manufacture.


Mervyn has detailed knowledge on explosives testing, productions, distribution (rail, road and sea), investigation of technical explosives, production and development problems, accidents and safety methods, the application and use of explosives and accessories with particular emphasis on open cast mining and the demolition and remediation of redundant explosives and chemical plants.


He also has a good working knowledge of detonators, shocktube, safety fuse, capped fuse, black powder and igniter cord and emulsion based products and also basic military explosives.


He has visited various explosive manufacturing plants and sites, locally and internationally, performing remediation of a variety of contaminants. He has attended numerous local and international conferences on a variety of subjects and presented several international and national papers on a variety of subjects, including a number at NIXT conferences.


Mervyn Traut received the NIXT Golden Medal in 2001.





Herman van Dijk obtained a Chem Cand (equivalent to BSc Chem) from the Netherlands Leiden University in 1952. He started his South African career at AECI, Modderfontein in 1953.

In 1959 he joined the Explosives Inspectorate, being responsible for the control and administration of the manufacture, testing, import/export transport, storage, use (surface), and disposal/destruction of explosives. This included commercial, military and some unconventional explosives and explosives devices. His detailed knowledge of technologies was evident during these times and while playing a major role in influencing design and licensing of Denel factories and sites.

He chaired official enquiries into various types of accidents including disposal of all explosives. He was also involved with the drafting of amendments to the Explosives Act and Regulations and was also part of the Technical Committee TC12.

Since his retirement as Deputy Chief Inspector in 1992 he consults to both to Government departments and industry.

With his experience he is believed to be the only person African Explosives could use who was competent in South Africa to independently audit and peer review the explosives documentation of the AECI explosives factories.

Herman likes to spend his free time with traveling, bird watching and involvement with environmental issues .

Herman van Dijk was awarded the NIXT Gold Medal and Certificate in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the South African explosives industry over many decades.





Chris Vermeulen obtained a B Sc (Chemistry and Mathematics) in 1952 at the University of Stellenbosch. His career commences at AECI as a chemist. During the first two years he came to know the characteristics of explosives through its chemical analysis and testing, laying the foundation of his thorough knowledge of explosives.

In 1955 he was seconded as Factory Chemist to AECI’s factory in Zimbabwe where he played a major role in the commisioning of a new phosphate plant. In 1958 he returned to AECI at Somerset West, acting as the Superintendent of the explosives plant. He there handled manufacture, technical investigations and development.

Within eight years of graduation he was promoted to a Section Manager and seconded to the project to establish the manufacture of military explosives and propellants. This was during the years when the arms boycott commenced and Somchem was conceived. Founded in 1971, Somchem was managed by a team including Chris Vermeulen as Production Manager under Colffie van der Colff, the Factory Manager. 


He immediately established a culture of explosives discipline which is still being maintained. Safety, quality and discipline were priorities with him, and in spite of production pressures, were never relaxed. He inspired each and everybody to think, think, think before attempting anything dealing with explosives. He was a master "devil’s advocate", always acting with safety in mind. Over many years he developed close links with NOSA, SAFEX and the Inspectorate of Explosives and was held in high respect as an explosives expert on operational matters by everybody.


His overseas visits and contacts kept him abreast with current developments and practices. This came in good stead when he was commissioned to establish a new, modern factory at Krantzkop near Wellington where only the latest technology was employed. Production started within two years and one year later a NOSCAR was awarded for achieving the highest safety levels at this factory.


In 1991, after 33 years in the explosives industry, Chris retired, knowing that no serious explosion ever occurred in areas under his control.


This giant of the explosives industry made his outstanding contributions with great modesty and dignity. He left a heritage of a sound explosives culture and operational discipline that inspired and guided all subsequent generations to come at Somchem.


Chris Vermeulen received the NIXT Golden Medal Award in 2001.





Dr Tom Szendrei received his initial training in Physics and Mathematics and after completing his Master Degree in Physics and Wits University in 1969, went on to complete his Ph.D in Physical Chemistry at RAU in 1977.

Dr Szendrei is extremely well qualified as a Chief Scientist at Naschem, to provide scientific and technological support to a wide variety of projects in the field of shaped explosive devices. He leads his company’s most innovative projects in both military munitions and commercial explosive products.

As a research scientist Tom served with the Anglo American Research Laboratories between 1971 and 1978, and during this time he was responsible for maintaining and using a thermal analyser and mass spectroscopy unit in a wide range of studies on high temperature gas/solid reactions.

It was later, after he had joined Naschem in 1979, and his responsibilities and interests had switched to those of modelling capabilities for munitions design, that his specialist responsibilities became related to prototype design and testing.


Tom has received extensive training overseas and has introduced many new techniques for the fabrication and testing of prototypes at Naschem. As Chief Scientist in the area of Technology Development, his main functions include the adaptation and introduction of military technologies to saleable commercial products. Dr Szendrei has many publications to his credit and has spoken at numerous symposia and conferences. He now operates a consultancy focussing on the engineering applications of explosives.




Fritz van Rooyen, late NIXT Secretary

Nixt has lost a dear friend and great supporter with the sudden death of Fritz van Rooyen the National Institute for Explosives Technology (NIXT) Secretary. Fritz was not only the permanent representative of NIXT, an institutional Associate Member, but also their SAFEX Contact Person. As such he was an intimate part of the SAFEX family.

Fritz obtained a Masters Degree cum laude in organic chemistry at the University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa in 1962. After spells with the South African Department of Agricultural Services and National Film Board, he was appointed lecturer at the Pretoria Technikon where he eventually became head of the Department of Explosives Technology  

Fritz founded NIXT in 1988 and was also one of its earliest Chairmen eventually becoming its permanent Secretary. In this role he organized five International NIXT Conferences and more than thirty local conferences for the explosives industry. He has presented a number of scientific papers on explosives at national and international conferences and was the recipient of a number of local and international awards. These awards recognized his dedication to fostering a love for science and technology among young people. Under his guidance NIXT has become a major influence in the African explosives industry. His personal development efforts of students over a period of thirty years left a mark on many skilled managers and technologists in the ind


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