Meet our Council
2021 – 2022
Chair of Council: Bongani Msini
Bongani was voted in as Chair of the Botanical Society in 2021, after serving as Deputy Chair in 2019/2020. He also served as a committee member of the Kirstenbosch Branch from August 2013 to June 2017.
He is an experienced biodiversity, water resources management, environmental planning and sustainability manager and leader. He leads the management and development of the Environmental Management Department at the City of Cape Town, as well as the City’s effective business management approach and environmental fiscal strategies.
His focus areas include building the external and international environmental funding programme through partnerships; managing, designing and overseeing implementation of key environmental programmes; building the department’s capital project implementation capacity; managing and coordinating annual budgets; developing and maintaining a 5-year departmental business plan and developing the City’s international profile, specifically for funding and investment opportunities for sustainable development and resilience to climate change.
More about Bongani
For over 13 years, Bongani held a position of Head: Nature Conservation in the Biodiversity Management of the City of Cape Town managing part of the City’s Biodiversity Network including Tygerberg, Blaauwberg, Witzands Aquifer, Table Bay, Bracken, Durbanville, Botterblom, Bothasig Nature Reserves and various other sites.
He’s the Board Chairperson and a member of the Human Resources and Remuneration Committee of the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA) and Chairperson of the Table Mountain Fund, also serving on its Conservation Committee. He is currently the City of Cape Town’s representative in the Strong Cities Network, launched in September 2018, which is facilitated by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS).
Bongani holds an MSc in botany and an Honours in sustainable development planning and management. He also has a BTech in nature conservation and completed various certificates in community-based natural resource management, conservation stewardship and extension and project management. He is a qualified Executive Coach.
He presented and served on the panel of experts on biodiversity and climate change at two international conferences both held in the United States of America: in California, Los Angeles in 2012 and Long Beach in 2016. He has a passion for nature and people. In 2021 he was invited to give an introductory keynote address at the World Biodiversity Forum 2021 with a focus on implementing governance for biodiversity.
During his MSc in botany studies, Bongani published a paper titled: Nectar gardens on school grounds reconnect plants, birds and people as well as the video: Stepping Stones – Through Fragmented Environments.
Treasurer: Murray Barnetson
Murray was elected to the BotSoc Council in 2021 as Treasurer. He has 25 years of experience providing strategic, fiscal and operations leadership – often in challenging environments. He obtained his Bachelor of Accounting Science, followed by his Honours, also in Accounting Science, from the University of South Africa. He is a registered Chartered Accountant with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Murray’s love for the outdoors, including gardening and mountain biking brought him closer to the Botanical Society, and he joined as member in 2020.
More about Murray
Murray is the co-owner of Part Time FD and DoughGetters Accounting. He provides part-time financial director services and uses his strategic abilities and love of technology to design and implement financial systems and business strategies for clients, a role he has undertaken since 2011.
Prior to this, he served as Financial Director of Strategic Insurance Systems, an insurance underwriter, and before that he was Group Financial Director of the X-PLOR Group, a subsidiary of the Dimension Data Group, where he was based in the United Kingdom. X-PLOR provided network testing and revenue assurance solutions to clients such as O2, Orange, Vodacom and MTN.
Between the mid 1990s and 2000, he represented Country Escapes Premium Leisure in South Africa as Group Financial Manager, and moving to London in 1999, he joined Delta UK Land Developments PLC as Director of Finance.
Murray earned the leadership position of Bombardier in the Anti-Aircraft Corp during his national service. He is also a member of MENSA.
He brings a wealth of financial and general business experience to the BotSoc team.
As one of South Africa’s leading horticulturists, Keith relishes sharing his positive attitude regarding indigenous planting.
He regularly visits notable gardens both locally and abroad (when lockdown allows for it), and is well-versed in the latest trends in landscaping and garden design. As well as encouraging and motivating South Africans to love their gardens, Keith has co-sponsored the Kirstenbosch South-African exhibit at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in London since 1993 until recently.
More about Keith
Born in Durban, he studied for his national diploma in horticulture at the Pretoria Technikon in 1972 and completed his NTC 1,2,3 (1st class) while doing a three-year pupillage at Durban Parks, Recreation and Beaches Department. He still exudes the same energy and style as he did back then.
Keith became a household name in South Africa during the early 1970s. His many TV series ran from 1975 to about 2012. He has also authored numerous gardening books during his accomplished career.
Most South African gardening enthusiasts have fond memories of hearing him on radio, seeing him on TV or meeting him at garden centres, presentations and lectures. Today his interests also include serving on BotSoc’s Council to grow membership and raise funds for conservation, support for book publishing, education and the BotSoc legacy project.
Kevin McCann is an experienced conservation manager, holding an MSc in zoology and ecology from the University of the Witwatersrand. He is currently a director at Conservation Outcomes, an NGO that specialises in supporting landowners across the country in developing new and viable protected areas.
Kevin has been a member of the KZN Inland Branch of the Botanical Society since 2018.
More about Kevin
From July 1994 to March 2006, Kevin was employed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, working with a variety of private landowners to secure threatened species and to deal with the challenges of biodiversity conservation in production landscapes. The main focus of this work was on conserving our three crane species, but later expanded to include Oribi antelope, Blue Swallows and Ground Hornbill. He was then employed within Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to develop a structured Biodiversity Stewardship programme for the province. This resulted in the first Biodiversity Stewardship protected area being declared in 2009 in KZN.
Kevin then became deputy director with the Wildlands Conservation Trust from April 2011 to July 2016, where he coordinated their conservation programme, focusing on establishing and supporting community conservation areas within KwaZulu-Natal. He also managed the implementation of a number of grant funds.
These included: the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot Fund, financed by the global Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund; the Capital Conservation Fund; and the Wild Series Funds, which provided grant funding to civil society organisations for conservation projects.
Kyra is a qualified environmental scientist, who is passionate about the Subtropical Thicket Biome, which she became interested in through her studies and past restoration research work. She has an MSc in Environmental Science from Rhodes University and is currently working in the project management unit to a large Global Environment Facility-funded project at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The project operates across four South African landscapes to enhance the adoption of Sustainable Land Management in support of the green economy, improved livelihoods and enhanced knowledge.
Kyra is passionate about and energised by ecosystems and enjoys identifying and drawing both plant and bird species. As an artist, Kyra enjoys using her creative skill to enhance the presentation of information that bridges the gap between science and communication.
More about Kyra
In her spare time, Kyra is also a CREW member and a committee member of the Thicket Forum. Her interests are in landscape ecology, land cover change, land degradation, social-ecological systems and knowledge management. She has served in her current role with the UNDP since 2019. Prior to this, she worked in two roles with the Rhodes Restoration Research Group as a GIS and Knowledge Manager for the Tsitsa Project, and as a researcher on thicket-related work. In her role, she co-authored the Subtropical Thicket Research and Praxis Strategy and in earlier years worked mapping illegal deforestation and conducted carbon and biodiversity baselines for a long-term thicket monitoring project. Kyra has also worked as an independent consultant, contributing to specialist botanical assessments of EIAs for citrus and wind farms in the Eastern Cape.
She is well travelled, and spent time exploring Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, working for a river expedition tour group. Here her interest in the natural world and people’s relationship with their environment was piqued.
Marinda Nel served as Interim Chair and then Chair of the Council of the Botanical Society between 2018 and 2021. She grew up in Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape and studied BComm, majoring in statistics and economics at Free State University. She then worked at Old Mutual’s Head Office in Cape Town for more than 30 years.
Marinda enjoys hiking and also volunteers as a SANParks honorary ranger. Her husband Hennie is a bonsai enthusiast.
More about Marinda
Marinda joined the Botanical Society in the 1980s and she became more involved as a BotSoc volunteer in 2017 after she had retired. In July 2017 Marinda was co-opted onto the Kirstenbosch Branch committee and later elected Branch Chair. She is particularly interested in encouraging people to take the threat of extinction seriously and care for plants and their environment.
Marinda was part of the team that developed and proposed the Botanical Society’s new constitution. At a BotSoc Special General Meeting in August 2018, members voted to implement the new constitution and for Marinda to become Interim Chair of the Interim Council. She was elected Chair of Council at the BotSoc AGM in February 2019.
Supported by BotSoc National Office, including leading the staff team during the transition period, Marinda has played a key role in the Botanical Society’s return to a member-driven organisation. She also played a vital role in reuniting BotSoc to best achieve its mission and objectives.
Michele is a botanist and an environmental ecologist with a MSc in botany. She is also a registered carbon footprint analyst and a trained Environmental Management Inspector.
She is based in Mtunzini in northern KZN and is currently working with the SAPPI Warburgia salutaris Conservation Working Group while supporting various organisations involved with plant conservation initiatives and rehabilitation projects.
More about Michele
Michele lived in the Kruger National Park for 17 years. During this time she worked for SANParks Scientific Services as the science communication manager. She then joined the SANParks Conservation Management team as manager of the Skukuza Indigenous Nursery for 10 years. This work included research and propagation of endangered plant species such as the Pepperbark (Warburgia salutaris) and critically endangered Swazi Lily (Adenium multiflorum) and various cycad species. The work in the nursery included community outreach programmes, school greening projects, Working for Water projects, botanical research projects and field work to collect plant material for research and propagation in the nursery. This also allowed her to work with a number of key partners, such as the SANBI, Agricultural Research Council (ARC), SAPPI, local and international universities, local stakeholders and community organisations.
Michele spent two years in Botswana based in Maun working with the Great Plains Conservation as their environmental officer for their concessions and lodges in the Okavango Delta and Zimbabwe. Through this role, she could assist in ensuring environmental compliance and sustainability in all sectors of the company’s operations and future developments including community outreach work and environmental audits.
She is also working at Twinstreams Indigenous Nursery and the new Eco Estate under development – Salta – in Umhloti as the botanist assisting in alien plant removal and coastal dune forest rehabilitation. Michele is committed to plant conservation and rehabilitation of habitats and degraded landscapes through innovative mechanisms that recognize the role of communities in all aspects of ecosystem services restoration.
Prof Charles Stirton
Charles is a botanist, author and businessperson with more than 50 years of experience in the botany world. His long list of accomplishments includes an Honorary DSc from the University of Glamorgan, Honorary Research Fellow at Birmingham University and Honorary Professor at Reading University. He is also the editor of four books, including co-authoring the ‘Field Guide to Renosterveld of the Overberg’, and has authored and co-authored more than 160 articles. While Charles currently lives in the United Kingdom, he is South African by birth. He grew up in KwaZulu-Natal where he obtained his Master’s degree from the University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg) and later completed his PhD at the University of Cape Town.
Charles adopts an approach to life that highlights the urgent challenge to humanity to live an economically prudent, environmentally sustainable, socially just, socially responsible and spiritually fulfilling presence on the planet. His wide interests include plants, insects, life’s journey, travel, nature, conservation, landscapes, agriculture, gardening, rare breeds of animals, arts, poetry, history, philosophy, anthropology, comparative religion, cultures, citizen science and futures thinking.
More about Charles
Charles started his career at the Botanical Research Institute in Pretoria in 1972 until 1982, during which time he spent three years as the South African Liaison Botanist in London at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. He returned briefly to South Africa for two years but then went back to London to assume a new post at Kew Gardens, serving as the Krukoff Botanist for Neotropical Legume Research. After a two-year stint he returned to his alma mater at the University of Natal as Associate Professor at the Department of Botany, but once again headed to Kew Gardens as research co-ordinator in NE Brazil, and later as Deputy Director and Director of Science and Horticulture at Kew until 1996.
He then became the Founding Director and CEO of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, a £50-million Landmark Millennium project. The garden opened in 2000 – and through Charles’s leadership, it introduced sustainable principles such as generating its own energy, organic farming, and effluent purification. He worked under the principle that ‘Gardens are great places to grow people’. He says, “My approach was to implement a cradle-to-cradle approach where a parent would bring their child to the garden and they in turn would bring their own child. The time it takes for cultural change to take place”.
After leaving the garden Charles ran a business consultancy until 2007 when he became a Mellon Foundation mentor and then later an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town. This has allowed him to travel regularly to his home country.
Charles has had a life-long service as a board member or Trustee of many social enterprises, and charitable and scientific trusts in the UK and South Africa, including the European Botanic Gardens Consortium, Species Survival Commission of IUCN, European Botanic Gardens Consortium; Tropical Forest Resource Group and currently as Research Advisor to the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust.
Frank has served as Chair of the BotSoc Lowveld Branch, prior to being elected to the BotSoc Council in 2021. He graduated with a BComm degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and attended a Programme for Management Development course at Harvard Business School in Boston, USA.
Frank’s love of nature is clear through his involvement and support of nature-based organisations. Aside from his role with the BotSoc Lowveld branch, he also serves as Chair of BirdLife Lowveld.
More about Frank
Frank worked for two manufacturing factories involved in Manganese beneficiation into pure Manganese-based products. While he started as accountant, he quickly progressed through the ranks to Commercial Director responsible for Accounting; Sales and Marketing in Asia; Supply Chain Management, and Human Resources. He ended his service as the Managing Director of their International Marketing company based in the UK before retiring in 2003.
Frank has always been a committee person serving primarily as either Chair or Treasurer of organisations that allowed him to enjoy his hobbies. Throughout his adult life, he has been very involved in sports clubs, including tennis and yachting, as well as service organisations such as LIONS and JAYCEES. He has also served on parent teacher associations and governing bodies of the schools his children attended, as well as on church organisations within the Methodist Church.
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