By Benjamin Brits

1951 was the year the South African Institute for Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (SAIRAC) was founded by visionary Dr GM Dreosti, along with a group of like-minded individuals.

To acknowledge this historic occasion, each SAIRAC centre hosted a celebratory lunch or dinner that included members, fellows, and various guests over the month of October. Celebrations were postponed from July 2021 due to various lockdown limitations and were still well supported throughout the regions.

Current institute president, Jaco Pieterse and national institute treasurer, Grant Laidlaw, attended all of the events and along with each centre chairman took the opportunity to share words with the attendees. The centre chairmen, Craig Hendricks (PE), Gordon Banks (KZN), Gregory Grobbelaar (JHB) and Archie Steyn (CT), also managed the handing over of the traditional fellow gifts and awards, where applicable.

After a brief moment of silence at each event in remembrance of those individuals lost over the period, Pieterse delivered his address highlighting the brief history of the founding of SAIRAC, that was born at the end of the July of 1951, in Cape Town. He offered much gratitude to all of the past presidents, committees, and fellows that had all played a part in SAIRAC reaching this milestone and proposed a toast, wishing them another successful 70 years ahead.

Port Elizabeth

{os-gal-213} Images by SAIRAC | Onsite image

He further discussed the challenges the HERVAC sector had endured over the period of the pandemic and specifically noted in encouragement that “there is light at the end of this long tunnel”. Further Pieterse spoke of the relationship established with the South African Chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), as well as the upcoming FRIGAIR 2022 event that would promote and be a stimulus for the entire sector as industry looked forward to participating on the platform once again. He also brought attention to the ongoing technical talks and enrichment courses presented by the institute and invited members to keep up to speed by visiting the official SAIRAC website.

Cape Town

{os-gal-216} Images by SAIRAC | Onsite Image

{os-gal-217} Images by RACA Journal | Benjamin Brits

Laidlaw, as a past president of the institute himself, spoke a little further on the history-side, specifically focusing on the hard work and achievements of the past presidents and each of their immense contributions to not only furthering the institute and industry, but further playing a vital mentorship role for those that followed. In his address he included a number of humorous accounts of how situations were dealt with, for example if someone didn’t like what they had heard, were not fond of being challenged, or gave the ‘youngsters’ a hard time – but still always keeping the committees and leadership on the straight and narrow. “This is a wonderful industry to be a part of and for those serving currently, we are enabled by standing on the shoulders of the industry greats,” he stated.

The centre celebrations each had their own theme and included comedians, magicians or musicians that entertained guests and were said to have all delivered excellent performances.


 {os-gal-218} Images by SAIRAC | Onsite Image

The first event kicked off in Port Elizabeth, where in addition to the national 70th celebration, the centre also celebrated their 60th anniversary, and was held at the Beach Hotel – a landmark in Port Elizabeth since 1894. Here comedian Gino Fabbri had the audience in awe from beginning to end.

At the second event, the KwaZulu-Natal centre hosted their evening event at the Riverside Hotel, and comedian, magician, and mentalist Stan Sussman entertained another full house.

The third event was hosted by the Johannesburg centre at Villa Bianca Restaurant and Venue with hypnotist, author, and speaker Max Kaan, who boggled the mind with various card tricks, illusions and even a levitating table in his finale!


{os-gal-220} Images by SAIRAC | Onsite Image

{os-gal-219} Images by RACA Journal | Benjamin Brits

Last, but definitely not least, the Cape Town centre event was hosted at the beautiful Devonvale Golf & Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. Piano and vocal duo, Godfrey Johnson and Nicholas McDiarmid, provided an excellent mix in their entertainment and kept the audience well engaged throughout.

The institute chairmen further offer much thanks for each of the committee members and secretaries for their roles in ensuring the success of the celebrations as well as the participation of the members, fellows, and industry.


The celebrations also involved the presentation of various awards to members or people from industry who have contributed to uplifting the institute and industry. These included:

  • Steve Naidoo – presented with 29 Years of Service Award
  • Dale Macnamara – presented with the Dave Rough Award
  • Robert Fox – presented with the Mike Veldon Award
  • Grant K Laidlaw – presented with Best Technical Presenter 2021 Award and the Silver Medal Award
  • Jacobus M Pieterse – presented with the Bronze Medal Award

The celebrations overall were well received and enjoyed by all. Congratulations once again to SAIRAC and we wish the institute all of the best for another 70 years of success and prosperity.

All other photos of the events are available on request from SAIRAC.

Erratum in SAIRAC 70th Platinum JubileeErratum in SAIRAC 70th Platinum JubileeSAIRAC apologises for the error in spelling for one of the committee member’s surname published in the SAIRAC 70th Platinum Jubilee. The correct name and surname is: Mr Deon Schmidt, not Smith.

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