Meet our Council  

2020 – 2021 

Chair of Council: Marinda Nel

Marinda Nel chairs the current Council of the Botanical Society Council. 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 after she retired in 2017. In July 2017 Marinda was co-opted onto the Kirstenbosch Branch committee and later elected Branch Chair. She is particularly interested in encouraging all people to 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 Head 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.

Treasurer: Henk Beets

Henk was co-opted as the Botanical Society’s National Treasurer in mid-2019. He and his wife Valda have both been members of the Botanical Society for many years.

Henk believes Valda is the family’s true gardener and plant fundi. As a hobbyist photographer, Henk enjoys capturing the amazing architecture of plant shapes. He loves travelling South Africa’s wide open spaces to admire the country’s diverse natural beauty.

More about Henk

Henk received a B.Comm degree and is a qualified actuary. His professional work expertise and experience lie mainly in the financial and investment spheres and include many years as the chief operating officer of Old Mutual Investment Group.

Now 67, Henk retired from formal employment in 2010 and has since served as a consultant and director in diverse fields, such as renewable energy, agricultural investment, technology-based insurance, corporate lending and credit management. He has an abiding interest in how we can apply technology to solve problems and to enhance our day-to-day experiences of life. He has built every desktop computer he has owned but also enjoys classical ballet.

Council Members

Keith Kirsten

As one of South Africa’s leading horticulturists, he relishes sharing his positive attitude to indigenous planting. 

Keith regularly visits notable gardens both locally and abroad, 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, for more than 20 years Keith has co-sponsored the Kirstenbosch South-African exhibit at Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in London.

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.

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.

Kevin McCann

Kevin McCann is an experienced environmental 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 develop 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. 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 areas being declared in 2009 in KZN.

Kevin then became deputy director with the Wildlands Conservation Trust from April 2011 to July 2016. 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 Environment Protection Fund; the Capital Conservation Fund; and the Wild Series Funds, which provided grant funding to civil society organisations for conservation projects.

Bongani Mnisi

Bongani served as Deputy Chair of the Botanical Society in 2019/2020. He was also a committee member of the Kirstenbosch Branch from August 2013 to June 2017.

Bongani holds a BPhil degree in sustainable development planning and management and an MSc degree in botany, both from the University of Stellenbosch.

Bongani has presented at and served on expert panels on biodiversity and climate change at two international conferences in California, USA: Los Angeles in 2012 and Long Beach in 2016.

More about Bongani

He also holds a BTech degree in nature conservation from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He has completed various certificates in communitybased natural resource management, conservation stewardship and extension and project management, as well as being a trained executive coach.

Bongani has more than 16 years and 11 years of experience in biodiversity and water-resources management respectively. He is head of nature conservation for the City of Cape Town Biodiversity Management. He manages the largest part of the city’s Biodiversity Network, including three nature reserves.

Bongani serves as Chair of the board of the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency, as well as serving on the board’s human resources and remuneration committee. He is also Deputy Chair of the Table Mountain Fund and serves on their conservation committee.

Eugene Moll

Eugene has been an active BotSoc member serving on many committees since his student days at UKZN in the mid-1960s. He is passionate about “people-and-plants” and wants to make a difference to the lives of “people-caring-for-the-earth”; especially in rural areas and specifically now in these COVID and hopefully soon-to-be post-COVID times.

He is a trained plant ecologist (UKZN Pietermaritzburg – 1960-1972) and as a university lecturer has been involved with undergraduate and postgraduate students for more than 40 years.

More about Eugene

His management experience in heading various university departments and as the Director of the Southern African Wildlife College (in the Timbavati) give him a level of understanding of how the BotSoc can move forward in these challenging times.

He is now retired and writing articles for Veld & Flora and African Wildlife & Environment, collaborating on a book on the trees of Kruger Park, running in-field tree identification courses at many venues for citizen scientists, and giving provocative talks on a variety of botanical topics mostly in the provinces along our eastern seaboard.

He still holds an honorary position at the University of the Western Cape in the Department of Biodiversity & Conservation Biology – because his passion for sharing knowledge with young people is undiminished because they are the future.

Caroline Petersen

Caroline Petersen has been a member of the Botanical Society’s Kirstenbosch Branch for more than 20 years. She has a passion for fynbos and enjoys walking in nature. Caroline gained an MSc in economic history from the London School of Economics and is also a qualified school teacher.

Caroline has 16 years of experience as a sustainable development professional at national and international levels, focusing on global environmental finance for biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation.

More about Caroline

Following her environmental policy work in South Africa, from 2008 to 2010, she managed a learning network in SANBI for the Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Grasslands Programmes.

From 2011 to 2019 she worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Africa, Asia and South America, supporting governments to maximise environment and development benefits by accessing the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund. From 2014 to 2016, she was acting principal technical advisor: biodiversity, heading UNDP’s $1.2 billion Ecosystems and Biodiversity portfolio around the globe. This included helping governments expand protected areas, mainstream biodiversity in production landscapes and manage land and forest resources sustainably.

From 2017 to 2019, Caroline was senior advisor: strategic initiatives with UNDP’s Green Commodities Programme globally, strengthening supply chains and enabling conditions for deforestation-free agricultural commodities.

In 2019, Caroline founded her business, Prosper with Nature. This supports nature-based solutions to climate and development challenges for a range of countries. Key interventions include: agroforestry, sustainable forest management, ecosystem restoration, sustainable land management, climate-smart agriculture, agriprocessing and value addition.

Hedwig Slabig

Hedwig Slabig has been involved with the West Coast Branch of the Botanical Society since it was founded in the early 2000s. She was Branch Vice-Chair for many years and has served as Chair since 2018. She was elected to the Botanical Society’s Council at the February 2019 national AGM and also serves as a member of BotSoc’s newly formed conservation standing committee.

Hedwig worked with Dr Renata Coetzee on veld food research and recipe development for her studies into the food culture of the Khoe and her books Kukamakranka and A Feast from Nature.

More about Hedwig

Hedwig has represented the West Coast Branch of the Botanical Society at various community and government organisations, including the Saldanha Bay Forum and the Intergovernmental Task Team Stakeholders Meeting.

Hedwig is a board member of the West Coast Biosphere Reserve and regularly attends workshops on their behalf. She is also actively involved in environmental impact assessment processes for applications for mining, wind farms and other development applications.

Born in Cape Town, Hedwig grew up in Hout Bay. She studied BA Fine Art at the University of Cape Town with English, botany and zoology, majoring in printmaking and book design.

While completing her studies, Hedwig was involved with the veld food and medicinal plant garden, making preserves for sale at the Hout Bay Museum. In 1993 she moved to 20ha of untouched strandveld. She founded and ran Die Winkel op Paternoster and later the Voorstrandt Restaurant in Paternoster.

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