Tribute to Wally Menne

By Sheila Berry

A week ago, on Thursday 26 October 2017, one of KZN’s most dedicated and well-known activists, Wally Menne, unexpectedly passed away.  His sad death, at 66 years old, leaves a huge void. He is survived by his wife, Rose Williams, Director of Biowatch, and three sons, Adam, Robus and Verdan.

Numerous tributes in praise of Wally are in circulation, many from international organisations, confirming that he was a man of enormous integrity and courage, and a fierce supporter of environmental and social justice.

Wally was the founding director of Timberwatch, an NGO that exposed and challenged thirsty industrial plantations that robbed rural communities of their land and livelihoods, destroyed indigenous forests and threatened grasslands.

Wally was also strongly opposed to mining in KZN. He was central to the successful Campaign for St. Lucia in the late 1980s and 1990s that saved the eastern shores from titanium mining, and instead  opened the way for the creation of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park as a World Heritage site.

Wally was highly critical of Richards Bay Minerals, Tendele Coal Mining and Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC). As such, he was a long standing ally of the Global Environmental Trust (GET). The day before he died, Wally invited GET to join him on a visit to Okhukho, to see firsthand the impacts of ZAC on this community.

We will deeply miss Wally for his knowledge, wisdom, dedication,  commitment, and courage. May his spirit and excellent work continue to inspire people to fight the good fight.

There will be a celebration of Wally’s life at the Durban Botanical Gardens Visitors Centre on Friday 3rd November at 16h00.


  1. Dr Bob de Laborde

    Along with others, I am deeply saddened to rear of Wally’s rather untimely passing.

    Since much is noted about Timberwatch, I felt I should fill in more of this NGO that achieved much and to which Wally was dedicated.

    My old compute broke so I lost precise dates, but in early 1996, a developed bought some 35km of land on both sides of the road from the Loteni River going on towards Nottingham Road with the intentions of planting it to timber. This is magnificent part of the Drakensberg and timber would have totally destroyed it. To make this worse for me, it included the farms my wife’s family had owned and where she was born and an area where I spent much of my life.

    I was incensed so started to oppose it with all I could. The battle raged through the year and on into the next with the Forestry Department siding with the developed in a bias and despicable manner despite the land being completely off-site for timber. I turned to the Pietermaritzburg branch of Earthlife Africa for help and had their much appreciated support. The Mercury and The Natal Witness also gave me great support. Later the Wildlife Society, WESSA, came to my support. The battle became so severe, that it was in-part responsible for Karda Asmal, the then Minister of Forestry, calling a national symposium which was held at the University in Pietermaritzburg. Following much trauma, we ultimately won and not a single tree has ever been planted.

    At a meeting with Earthlife Africa short after this, they suggested we form an NGO on the strength of the momentum created and so embryonic Timberwatch was formed very much under the wing of Earthlife’s wing. A small group of us combined with WESSA to continue to oppose the rape of South Africa by the mighty timber industry. Follow some delays we had our inaugural meeting at the Botanical Gardens, Pietermaritzburg.

    Around the time, or some time before I can’t recall, we were joined by Wally Menne. I was delighted to have his enthusiasm, energy, and commitment. At meetings shortly follow the inauguration, we formed the committee, drew up a constitution, and decided on Timberwatch’s letterhead.

    In the years that followed, using Wally’s enthusiasm, many contacts and activist talents combined with my many years’ experience in timber, Timberwatch became as substantial force opposing the timber industry and creating national awareness of the destruction the industry was inflicting on South Africa and surrounding countries.

  2. Dr Bob de Laborde

    My last comment sent unexpectedly. My sincere condolences to you Rose. This must have been a dreadful shock to you and your and Wally’s families. Words seem so inadequate and cannot carry fully all I feel for you at this time.

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