Maintenance Manager, Djuma
When Pippa and Jurie Moolman started Djuma Private Game Reserve some 26 years ago, they never anticipated the enormous impact their little piece of African wilderness would have on the local communities that surround the northern section of the Sabi Sands. Thanks to their incredible commitment to the people they work with and those who live in these communities, entire villages have benefitted from Djuma’s presence and pioneering ethos.
One of these villages is Dixie, home to Jim Reeves Nkuna, son of the headman, or induna. Jim is Djuma’s Maintenance Manager, a job he could never have imagined when he was growing up in this small, close-knit community not far from the Gowrie Gate to the Sabi Sands.
“I was one of three boys growing up in Dixie,” explains the softly spoken Jim. “I went to school in Dixie, matriculated from Dixie and spent time considering my future there when I left school,” he says. “We always saw the Djuma vehicles in and around Dixie, and everyone knew about Djuma, and Pippa and Jurie – the reserve’s owners. I had a cousin who was a mechanic there and I asked him to let me know if there was ever a job going there, as I was definitely interested in working there,” explains Jim.
“I got lucky, because a couple of years later, in September 2002, my cousin called to say there was a temporary job going in the workshop as a mechanic and driver. I went along and was taken on, working alongside my cousin and helping to drive the staff to and from the villages. In February 2003 my appointment was made permanent and my official career at Djuma began,” smiles Jim. Sixteen years later, aged 41, Jim is still pinching himself. “Sometimes I still can’t believe my luck at getting the opportunity to work here,” he laughs.
Jim buckled down and worked hard and in 2011 got the opportunity to move into general maintenance, helping to care for Djuma’s upkeep and wellbeing. “I loved the chance to expand my horizons and to learn new things,” he says, grinning widely. He obviously excelled at his new calling and in 2015 was promoted to Maintenance Manager, running a team of six people who report directly to him.
“It’s been a huge achievement for me, and I feel very proud that I am part of the management team here at Djuma,” Jim says. He’s achieved a lot along the way, participating in lots of courses on everything from fire fighting and refrigeration maintenance to air conditioning and first aid. He’s currently overseeing Djuma’s complete transition to solar and has been learning all about this alternative energy source and how to make it efficient, cost effective and maintain it in this often harsh environment.
“It’s my job to make sure that everything here is working well, fixing things as needed and being proactive by regularly servicing things, oiling and varnishing decks and wooden furnishings, checking vehicles, all equipment and machinery, making sure things are properly cared for and in good working order. It’s a great job and keeps me and my team busy – the bush always makes sure we’re kept busy, what with the dust and the heat, not to mention wild animals!”
“There’s a famous song by Jim Reeves, the American singer, called ‘Welcome to my World'” says Jim’s colleague at Djuma, General Manager Michel Girardin. “It includes the lines: ‘Knock and the door will open, Seek and you will find, Ask and you’ll be given the key to this world of mine,’ which is fitting when you look at Jim’s journey and the path he’s taken here at Djuma. Jim deals with all the behind the scenes challenges not often seen by guests, but he is the epitome of the word ’empathy’ – always putting Djuma’s guests at the forefront and ensuring everything is in perfect working order.”
Jim says he feels truly blessed at the end of each day, when he sits and looks back at what he has achieved in his 16 years at Djuma. “When I think back to when I was in Dixie all those years ago, looking at the Djuma vehicle and wondering what Djuma was all about, I am amazed. The company always had a good reputation in the communities. They came and played soccer with us, they worked with us. They were and still are part of the community. And I am part of the Djuma family. I am very grateful. And very proud,” he says.
It’s a pride that extends out into the communities on Djuma’s doorstep. “Djuma has done so much for our villages here, helping us with water and with generators, helping us with the schools and the soccer teams that they have supported. And at Christmas they send us Christmas “buckets” packed with goodies for the festive season. So it’s no wonder that everyone in our communities loves Djuma,” explains Jim.
The Djuma “love” extends to Jim’s family too. Just like all the other staff whose families come and visit, Jim’s family is welcome to come and stay with him on the reserve any time they like. “They are just as at home here at Djuma as I am,” he says. My sons are 15 and 10 and love spending time here, and Djuma provides the transport for them to and from Dixie.
My eldest son wants to be a pilot, so I have told him he must keep up with his mathematics, as pilots need strong mathematics. I am still learning too, and I am always given the opportunity to learn new things, both in my career and personally, in my own development. One of the most important things I have learned is the value of sharing and giving, especially to others who are not as fortunate as you are. Sharing good fortune is an important part of who I am,” says Jim.
“I would like to still be here in 10 years’ time. I think I will be, if God is good. I don’t think I will leave, because I feel so at home here. It’s like working with my family, not like an ordinary job,” muses Jim.
“I am very comfortable in every aspect of my life, thanks to Djuma. I also feel very special, and blessed to be here, because here you are free to become the person you want to be, supported by Pippa and Jurie and the whole Djuma team. You can do whatever you want to better yourself and learn and feel part of a huge, caring and loving family. I also work much harder here because I push myself to make sure that everyone is proud of me and that the investment made in me is not wasted. I work hard because I am proud of who I am and where I am working. This is my home, and my family and I will never let them down.”