SABA Mini-C in Bloemfontein

November 25, 2018

The 2018 SABA AGM has come and gone all too soon.  We had an incredible time.  Thank you to all the Bloemfontein Bonsai Kai-ers. You put on an excellent show and were amazing hosts.  I always get asked: “Doesn’t it get boring to talk bonsai all weekend long?” and my answer is always a puzzled: “Huh?”. (“Huh” is Afrikaans for “excuse me?” or “what?” or “I don’t understand your question?” 




(Photo Credit: Caroll Dewar Hermann)


The AGM was held on Friday night and was attended and/or represented by 10 Clubs in person and we received 7 proxies (meeting was declared quorate) and 3 apologies.  Thank you to the clubs who sent proxies.  The EXCO Secretary had a very valid excuse for not being present as he had to look after his new born twins.  (Congratulations to Ben-Herman and Adri on the birth of Marx and Zak, their own personal little “Weeders”, as in "pulling weeds from pots"Haha.) All protocol was observed and the meeting proceeded smoothly.


The SABA EXCO had a very successful year in that we reached most of our objectives that we set out at the beginning of our tenure:  to formalise nomination, voting and election procedures; set out to develop transparent and fair participation in Social Media Engagement; New Talent competitions and Lifetime Achiever awards protocols, increase club participation and flow of communication in both directions and I thank you for that.  We also wanted to increase SABA membership by 5% and I am so happy to say that SABA now stands at 28 clubs and 854 members, up by 9% from 2017. 


Although we did not manage to increase the participation in the New Talent competition, we hope that this is something that will happen in 2019.  Most of the judging formats have been standardized and although the new logo was rejected by the representatives, all agreed that the old one must get a facelift.  


As per mandate, the Constitution was relooked at and several clubs participated in commenting on it before the AGM.  I proposed at the AGM that we keep to the old Constitution for now as needs a lot more work, but requested that the members present agree to include or exclude the suggestions forwarded by the clubs, which will be voted on at the AGM in 2019.  All were in agreement to it and there were no objections.  Two members have indicated their willingness to start working on improving and simplifying the Constitution.


The following points were voted on to either include or exclude:


  1. “Board of Representatives” be changed to “National Body of Attendees”. It was decided that the Board of Representatives can stay, pending major cosmetic revision of the Constitution.

  2. A member simplified the Constitution.  This will be sent to Freddie Bisschoff who also volunteered to revamp it.

  3. Code of Conduct.  This, along with all the protocols will be included in the new version.

  4. The existing structure should be that of an EXCO with the current positions voted for at the AGM. That the EXCO should be advised by a Managing Committee (MANCO) consisting of representatives of the different regions. The EXCO has the final decision. Rejected

  5. The proposed voting system runs contrary to the way a democracy should work and is too complicated. By giving big clubs more votes the smaller clubs will always be overrun and their interests ignored. One club, one vote. Accepted. All clubs, regardless of number of members, will only have one vote.

  6. Removing limitation on proxies.  Accepted. Representatives may now hold more than 2 proxies.

  7. Names of members of SABA affiliated clubs to be forwarded to SABA. The majority of people present voted against this.


We had 6 nominations for Lifetime Achiever Awards and although all 6 were worthy contenders, we felt that the award should remain prestigious and that it should not be awarded to more than 3 people per annum.  It was an incredibly difficult decision to make.  The winners were Carl Morrow, Pieter Loubser and Errol Rubin.


Carl Morrow has been involved in bonsai for over 31 years and has been an active participant in the bonsai scene for this time. Carl was introduced to bonsai by Kenneth Doble (from Óyama Bonsai Kai) in 1987 when he was 15 and since then he has enthusiastically learnt from many fellow Cape Town growers, most notably Bernard Coetzee, Len Redfern, Viky Peterman, Rudi Adam and Gail Theron. He has been passionately engaged in the art and has lectured at numerous clubs, regional symposia and National Conventions. He has been the backup African presenter on two occasions for World Bonsai Conventions, the 6th in San Juan (2009) and the 8thin Saitama City (2017).   In October 2017, Carl was one of 4 people invited to present a lecture atBonsai Europa, the biggest bonsai event in Britain.   He is one of the few South African artists to be personally invited to present at an international convention. 


He has travelled to China, Australia, the United States, Holland, Belgium, France Italy and the UK to see bonsai collections and attend conventions. He enjoys writing about bonsai and has had many articles published in the mainstream media, blogs, local bonsai magazines and in international bonsai magazines. He wrote the book "Bonsai Success in Southern Africa" with Keith Kirsten which has been released as a second edition and is used as a reference by many South African Bonsai artists. He has consulted on and contributed pictures to 4 other books. He has had two of his trees selected as winners in the World Bonsai Contest.   He has achieved  "best tree on show" and had many other category winners at the Cape Bonsai Kai's annual show through the years.   Two trees have been awarded solitaire status by the Cape Bonsai Kai.  When they were running, his trees were often selected at the annual Cape Heritage Portfolio exhibitions.   In late 2017, he won the 60+ cm category at the Cape Town Bonsai Festival; a regional, open, exhibition held in the Company Gardens and arranged by the City of Cape Town and Cape Reginal Association of Bonsai.  


He works on anything interesting, challenging and possibly unconventional and refining Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) and Chinese Maples (Acer buergerianum) are favourites from a technique and horticultural point of view. 


Carl likes combining a discussion of a more theoretical aspect of bonsai with a practical demonstration. He feels that it is important that attendees are stimulated and to think about their art rather than just sit back and watch somebody work on a tree. He also enjoys critique sessions where the good points and bad points of the bonsai on display are discussed and suggestions of improvement are made.  


Errol Rubin started bonsai in 1975 with the  birth of his eldest son. He joined EBS in 1979, 7 years after EBS is officially formed and joined EBS committee in 1982.  His first demonstration was in August 1983, the Toobuku (fallen tree style) which he researched in depth.  Errol was always well prepared and felt that, whether working on your own tree, or demonstrating, preparation was of cardinal importance.


Errol has done numerous demonstrations on various topics at EBS as well as at other Bonsai clubs in the region. From 1882 Errol has been an active member of the EBS Committee fulfilling most of the portfolios until August 2017 when he had to step down to ill health.  During the 1980’s Errol played an integral part when EBS took part in the Johannesburg City Hall exhibitions.  He held direct responsibility for the EBS shop ,which not only has kept the club viable over all these years, but which without the club could not exist.


Errol in his own capacity supported and backed BRAT, SABA, ABA and served on their committees over the years. Errol always discussed the” Bonsai Basics”-published by EBS , and shared his knowledge. With experienced club members on hand, he guided and helped Bonsai newbies.  As Chairman Errol always organised the yearly show and designed artistic displays, besides always contributing lots of excellent trees for the shows.


In April 2017, Errol was one of the EBS members to go to Japan for the WBFF convention in Saitama City. Being a true professional, on his return , with lots of photos and  Akadama soil which he brought to experiment with locally, he shared generously: inspiring ideas, techniques and lessons learned.


Pieter Loubser has been an active Bonsai enthusiast since back in the early 1980’s and has been, and remains the back-bone of Bonsai in the North West Province or Western Transvaal.  He has given countless Bonsai talks and demonstrations to garden and Bonsai clubs, at Regional Bonsai Association days, as well as International Bonsai Conventions in Southern Africa. He, probably more so than any other enthusiast in the country, has provided informative articles and information to various clubs for publication in newsletters to share with fellow enthusiasts.  He published ‘Understanding Bonsai’, in our opinion the most comprehensive locally produced Bonsai publication, both in English and Afrikaans.  This was also very well received in Bonsai circles in the Western World.  His very friendly manner, willingness to share knowledge and expertise, and always a cheerful smile, makes him a very welcome member or visitor to any Bonsai meeting or occasion.  His recent physical problems have prevented him from regular attendance at all Bonsai functions, but he has continued to encourage and promote the hobby he so dearly loves and enjoys.   Pieter is fondly referred to as the ‘Elder Statesman of Bonsai’.


Congratulations to all three.


The New Talent competition had 8 participants from Joshua Havermahl from Bonsai Addicts, Ryno Freid berg from Border Bonsai Society, Ted Somerville from Kengai Bonsai Kai; Fred Oudmayer from Eastern Bonsai Society, Brendan van der Merwe from Durban Bonsai Society, Kobus Erwee from Pretoria Bonsai Kai and Schalk Visagie and Shayn Tesner both from Blaauwberg Bonsai Kai. (Images: courtesy of Thelmarie Fritz)


Hannes welcomed all and explained all the rules to everybody. The entrants were called to draw a spoon with the number of the tree they will work on.  The spoon was also used to indicate the front of the tree.

 (Fred Oudmayer drawing his tree number)




That was the last time we saw the entrants for 4 hours.  They were whisked away to start working. No outside contact was allowed and once an entrant declared that he was finished and left the hall, they were not allowed back in.



 (Shayn Tesner and Ted Somerville)

 (Josh Havermahl)

 (Ryno Freidberg)

(Schalk Visagie

(Hannes keeping a watchful eye on all) 



 Shayn Tesner drew Tree No 1. (Top: Before and After)