‘Monna wa mano’: Taking creative action to fight the spread of COVID-19

Career at thyssenkrupp | Engagement | Engineering | People at thyssenkrupp | Work safety | South Africa is the African country most severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Government and industry have taken a rigorous approach in responding to the pandemic. But that wasn’t enough for Brian Mashabela, so he decided to take action himself: At thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions South Africa the engineer designed t-shirts to help colleagues remember the coronarules.

Brian has been working at thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions South Africa (TKISA) in Kempton Park, just a few kilometers west of Johannesburg, since 2014. With 400 employees, the company provides engineering services and plant construction solutions to the fertilizer, petrochemical, oil and gas, electrolysis, mining, minerals and cement sectors. As a site solutions engineer, the 36-year-old supports the project managers.

But as is the case all over the world, the pandemic has also meant massive changes in society and working life in South Africa. A multi-level lockdown is in place in the country. “The lockdown comprises five levels,” says Brian. “Level 5 was the most restrictive and level 1 is the least restrictive. The lockdown began with level 5 at midnight on March 26, 2020. On June 1 level 3 began, which is lasting longer due to the huge rise in cases.”

Monna wa mano – “a man with a plan”

“Before the first lockdown a lot of information was broadcast on different media platforms to inform the masses,” says Brian, who didn’t want to just sit around and do nothing so he took the initiative. After all, he has always been a man of action: “Monna wa mano – these were the words that my teacher told me when I was ten years old. They mean a man with a plan.”

26 years later the plan looked like this: Designing stylish t-shirt motifs to help colleagues remember the coronavirus rules. “I think t-shirts are a good medium for conveying important information such as COVID-19 health guidelines,” says the creative engineer with conviction. “They will enhance awareness and educate people about the health guidelines for preventing COVID-19 in the workplace and home.”

Brian utilized the extensive design skills he has acquired over the years. “I designed the t-shirt using Adobe illustrator and Photoshop and pitched the idea to our CEO Philip Nellessen,” he says. Philip Nellessen was enthusiastic and gave the go ahead. Since then Brian’s t-shirts have become incredibly popular at Kempton Park, reminding people to wash their hands regularly and wear a mask among other things.

It was his creative streak that made him decide to become an engineer. “I chose mechanical engineering because of the design aspect and because it allows me to come up with ideas and solutions,” says Brian, who also enjoys painting, photography and graphic design in his spare time – all skills that help the engineer in his daily work at thyssenkrupp. “As a department we are constantly exploring ideas for improving machine equipment to ensure that site activities are conducted safely and effortlessly. The experience I’ve acquired so far makes it easier to meet challenges.”

Stay at home also applies in South Africa

These challenges have now been added to by the new coronavirus. In South Africa too, people are having to get used to living with the pandemic, and the global trend toward working from home has also reached the country. Brian says: Working from home is no problem for Brian. Quite the opposite in fact: “It has improved my work output, because I’m able to work with fewer distractions except that I sometimes have to entertain my naughty 6-year-old daughter,” says Brian with a grin. He probably already has one or two new ideas in mind. Monna wa mano.



  • written by Ruben
  • 17. September 2020

Great Job Brian.

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