28 August 2023


UPDATE 21 May 2024: While researching for an unrelated article, I came across information that contradicts the origins of Milo as I had previously written here.

In 1911, Salim LOUIS immigrated to Cape Town from Lebanon. Later on, he moved to Bloemfontein. In 1913 his brother, Michel (Michael) joined him. The following year, the two brothers started a general wholesale merchant business. By 1933, they were importing tea leaves from Ceylon plantations. They named their tea brand Milo, using the first two letters of Michel's name and the first two letters of his surname. It was this tea company that was later purchased by Nestlé for their well-known hot chocolate malt drink.

ORIGINAL POST DATED 28 AUG 2023: Milo, an iconic Australian brand, was first developed in 1930 by a young trainee chemical engineer, Thomas MAYNE of Smithtown, New South Wales. Nestlé wanted to develop a tonic drink that would address malnutrition in children during the great Depression. The drink was made from malted barley, dried milk and cocoa.

Thomas spent four years developing what we now know as Milo. He wanted to create a mix with vitamins and minerals that would dissolve when stirred, not just fall to the bottom of the glass. One day, he walked into his kitchen to discover his daughter and son scooping the crunchy bits of Milo powder off the top of their drinks. It was then that he realised that the crunch was not a problem, but a feature - and so Milo as we know it today was born. It was named after Milo of Croton, a Greek wrestler who lived in the 6th century BC and possessed legendary strength. Milo Tonic Food was introduced to the public at the 1934 Sydney Royal Easter Show in the iconic Milo tin. Today it's the world's leading chocolate malt beverage that can be prepared with hot or cold milk or water. Nestlé’s Chembong Factory in Malaysia is the world's largest Milo manufacturing site.

The Spanish call it calimocho or kalimotxo. In Germany they call it kora or korea. In Chile, it’s jote and in Croatia it's known as bambus. In Argentina it's known as "Jesus juice". If you're familiar with Africa or Portugal, you know it as catemba. A 50-50 mixture of red wine and Coca-Cola, it is said to have originated at a festival in Algorta, Spain, in 1972 when traders discovered the wine they planned to sell was terrible so they added Coca-Cola and ice to disguise the flavour. But for many years before that, the drink was already well-known in South Africa, Mozambique, and Angola - thanks to the Portuguese communities living there. According to family stories, catemba was invented by the owner of a restaurant on the island of Catembe when it was still a small fishing community. It was common to mix red wine with Sprite, but one day the owner used Coca-Cola instead.


The first qualified, non-military veterinarians started arriving in South Africa in the middle 1800s. In 1886, Dr Jotello Festiri SOGA became the first South African-born person to receive a degree in veterinary medicine (MRCVS). The second formally-trained South African veterinarian was Dr Philip Rudolph VILJOEN (1889 - 1964) who qualified in 1912.

Jotello SOGA and his wife Catherine

Jotello was born at the Mgwali Mission in the then Transkei in 1865, the youngest son of Reverend Tiyo SOGA (Xhosa) and his Scottish wife Janet BURNSIDE (Scottish). Reverend SOGA was South Africa’s first black ordained Presbyterian clergyman. After his father’s death in 1871, the family moved to Scotland where Jotello and his six siblings completed their education under the protection of the United Presbyterian Church (Church of Scotland). He completed his matric at the Dollar Academy. He entered the Royal School of Veterinary Studies (later part of the University of Edinburgh) in 1881 and qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS) in April 1886 and earned a gold medal for botany studies. His brothers graduated from the University of Glasgow - William Anderson SOGA (1857 - 1916, medical doctor), John Henderson SOGA (1860 - 1941, missionary and Xhosa historian), and Allan Kirkland SOGA (1862 - 1938, journalist and politician).

From 1886 – 1889 Dr SOGA worked as a veterinarian in private practice in Tutuka, Cape Colony. On 01 November 1889 he was appointed as Dr Duncan HUTCHEON's (Colonial Veterinary Surgeon Cape Colony) second assistant (Dr John D BORTHWICK was the first) and served as a District Veterinarian in many places in the Cape Colony. He was much esteemed by Dr HUTCHEON, and was appointed at the same rate of pay as Dr BORTHWICK. He was first stationed at Fort Beaufort.

From 1889 to 1894 he was employed by the Cape Colony as Junior Veterinarian. He was involved with the vaccination campaign against contagious lung-sickness. While working as veterinarian for the Cape Colony he studied toxic plants and their effect on animals – both for their poisonous and curative effects. He also lectured on diseases of stock and their treatment in Somerset East. After working with the bacteriologist, Dr Alexander EDINGTON, at the Colonial Bacteriological Institute in Grahamstown, Dr SOGA was appointed as District Veterinarian and was transferred to King William’s Town in 1894, where he worked on foot-and-mouth disease, red water, and biliary fever. He did his own inoculation experiments for Contagious Bovine Pleuro-Pneumonia (lung-sickness), after which his vaccination method became standard use.  He assisted Professor Andrew SMITH with investigations into the medicinal properties of South African plants. During this time he was appointed as Assistant Veterinary Surgeon in the Veterinary Department of the Cape Colony and Bechuanaland (now Botswana).

In 1892, three years after rinderpest broke out in East Africa, Dr SOGA published two articles in the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, in which he warned of the devastation that the virus would bring. He predicted the rapid spread of the disease towards South Africa and warned that if proper measures were not taken, "I make bold enough to say, that more than two-thirds of Colonial cattle will succumb to its ravages".

In March 1896 rinderpest entered the Northern Cape and Dr SOGA was sent to Mafikeng to help deal with infected animals. Dr SOGA was part of a small team of animal health professionals that eradicated rinderpest, a contagious and fatal disease that almost destroyed South Africa’s herds in the late 19th century. By 1903 the team succeeded in eradicating rinderpest. More than a million cattle died, either from the disease itself or deliberate slaughter to control the disease.

He continued to conduct important research on animal health and frequently contributed articles on veterinary medicine to professional journals - his first article was published in January 1891 in the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope. He was a much sought-after speaker at conferences and was a co-founder of the Cape Colony Veterinary Society in 1905 which later became the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA). He often served as a judge at horse shows at the East London Agricultural Show.

Dealing with the rinderpest epidemic was exhausting and depressing work. As a result, Dr SOGA's health suffered and he eventually retired from the Cape Civil Service in 1899, with a government pension. He was commended by the British High Commissioner, Lord MILNER, for his services in combating rinderpest. In 1900 he went into private practice in the Border area. In 1902 he was employed by Carl H MALCOLMESS to supervise his cattle on the farm Itala in the Stutterheim district. He later moved to the farm of Anthony Peter FITCHETT, a farrier, at Amalinda close to East London where he continued with his own small veterinary practice.

Dr Jotello SOGA died at Fitchett's farm on 06 December 1906 from an overdose of laudanum and was buried in Amalinda. He was married to a Scotswoman, Catherine Watson CHALMERS, on 09 July 1892, and they had three daughters: Catherine, Margaret and Doris. After his death, his widow and daughters returned to Scotland.

In 2009, the University of Pretoria named the library of its Faculty of Veterinary Science in Dr SOGA’s honour. The ceremony was attended by Carole GALLAGHER, a great-granddaughter of Dr SOGA, Camagu Malcom SOGA (from King Williams Town) and Thembi SOGA. The Onderstpoort Veterinary Institute created the Jotello SOGA Ethno-Veterinary Garden. The South African Veterinary Association awards the SOGA Medal annually in recognition of exceptional community service rendered by a veterinarian or a veterinary student.

27 August 2023


Sylvia Lee RAPHAEL was born on 01 Apr 1937 in Graaff-Reinet to Miriam Helena SMIT (born 1907 in the Orange Free State and a Christian), and Ferdinand RAPHAEL (born in 1886 in the Cape and a Jewish atheist). She was baptised and raised in her mother's Dutch Reformed religion. 

When her parents were married in June 1935, her father was an insurance agent and her mother a typist. It was Ferdinand's second marriage, having married the divorced Alice Louise WATTS in Johannesburg in 1917 (they divorced in 1935). Ferdinand and Alice lived at 58 Gracht St, Boksburg, at the time of their marriage. Alice had married her first husband in 1897 and divorced him in 1908. She died in Johannesburg in 1942.

Ferdinand later owned the local cinema in Graaff-Reinet. He died at St Joseph's Hospital in Port Elizabeth in 1958. Miriam died in Worcester in 1993.

Sylvia's grandfather, Solomon RAPHAEL, was born in Odessa circa 1861 and died in Graaff-Reinet in 1933. He was a produce buyer. He married Emilia DAVIS. She died in Graaff-Reinet in 1920.

As a young girl, Sylvia saw some boys pushing a Jewish girl in a wheelbarrow in Graaff-Reinet and chanting, "We're going to take you to Hitler." She was so distressed that her parents sent her away to a girls’ boarding school. After studying at Rhodes University and breaking off her engagement to a South African when his drinking became a problem, she moved to Israel in 1959, working on Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, near Hadera, and later in Tel Aviv as an English teacher.

In 1962, she received a phone call from a man who introduced himself as Gadi. He said he was a representative of an Israeli government agency looking for new female recruits. When she asked what kind of work, he asked her to meet him at the Café Hadley in Tel Aviv the next day and he'd explain. Gadi was Moti KFIR, the commander of Mossad’s School for Special Operations. Sylvia was intelligent, beautiful, and spoke English, Afrikaans, French, German, Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic. A Mossad agent's girlfriend was Sylvia's flatmate at the time and he recommended her to Mossad recruiters. Sylvia joined up and after completing her training she qualified to operate in foreign countries.

She was given a new identity, Patricia ROXBOROUGH, a Canadian photojournalist, and was sent to Vancouver, Canada for six months to create her cover story as a freelance photographer. Next she was sent to Paris, the centre of Mossad's operations in Europe. Her first job there was for an international photographic agency. Sylvia was so good at her job that she held a photography exhibition in Paris. She was a gifted artist, drawing and painting, so photography was natural for her.

Sylvia was one of the first Mossad agents to penetrate Yasser ARAFAT's bases in Jordan and Lebanon in the 1960s. She later survived at least three assassination attempts by the PLO. She was known to have operated in Cairo, Mogadishu, Asmara, Djibouti, Beirut, Amman, and Damascus. She is said to have replaced Eli COHEN in Damascus, after he was publicly hanged in 1965 after the discovery of his high-level infiltration of the Syrian regime. As a close friend of the Jordanian royal family, she is said to have babysat the future King Abdullah II. 

In the summer of 1972, the PLO’s Black September carried out the Munich Massacre, in which 11 Israeli athletes participating in the Olympic Games were murdered. When the Israeli government decided to track down the Black September operatives, Sylvia provided intelligence that led to the killing of three. She was then assigned to a covert operation to assassinate others involved in the massacre. In July 1973, Sylvia was part of the team that mistakenly assassinated Morocco-born waiter/pool attendant Ahmed BOUCHIKI in Lillehammer, Norway. He was the brother of Gypsy Kings musician Chico BOUCHIKHI. The team had mistaken him for the mastermind of the massacre. Sylvia had studied the mastermind closely and realised the team had the wrong man but her calls to abort the mission were not heeded. She was arrested shortly afterwards and was convicted in early 1974 of planned murder, espionage, and the use of forged documents. She was sentenced to 5½ years in prison, but was released after serving 18 months and deported from Norway.

While in prison, she was adopted by the Ramat Hakovesh kibbutz in Israel, where her brother had worked. She married her Norwegian attorney, Annæus SCHJØDT, and retired from Mossad. She was deported again after re-entering Norway in 1977. Two years later she obtained a residence permit, but left Norway with her husband in 1992, settling in Pretoria, South Africa. The couple did not have children. Sylvia died in Pretoria on 09 February 2005, having battled cancer. She was cremated in South Africa and her ashes interred in the military section of the cemetery at Ramat Hakovesh.

In Steven SPIELBERG’s 2005 film Munich, Sylvia's character is played by Daniel CRAIG who later became James Bond 007. He played Steve, the South African driver in the Mossad team. After being sentenced in Norway, Sylvia (known for her sense of humour) joked that she went from 007 to 005½. A documentary, Sylvia: Tracing Blood, tells her story through the people who knew her, including her brother David (aka Bunty) and her husband who died shortly after filming finished in 2014. It was directed by a South African, Saxon LOGAN.

While living in Pretoria, Sylvia re-connected with her nephew, Derek WATTS, the Carte Blanche journalist. His father was Basil Havelock WATTS, born in Johannesburg in March 1912 to Alice Louise WATTS and Ferdinand RAPHAEL. Basil died in Bulawayo in 1982. He married Edna Lily TRIGGS in Johannesburg in 1940. They had three children - Derek, Roy and Gaynor. Basil started his working life as a boilermaker on ships, and later worked his way up to Managing Director of an engineering company in Bulawayo.


After a scientific search of more than 30 years, researchers in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, in collaboration with international partners, pinpointed the gene that causes the inherited heart disease known as progressive familial heart block type I, in a group of South African families whose ancestor can be traced to one immigrant who landed at the Cape in 1722.

The disease was first described by Professor Andries BRINK, a cardiac specialist and former Dean of the Faculty, in 1977. In 1986, his son, Professor Paul BRINK, in collaboration with Professor Valerie CORFIELD, embarked on the search for the genetic mutation that triggers the condition and causes a disruption of the electrical impulses that control heart contractions. They traced this to a small area on chromosome 19 which contained about 80 genes. This search came to an end when Brink and Corfield, in collaboration with German scientists managed to pinpoint the exact gene amongst this group.

The study of progressive familial heart block started at Stellenbosch University in the 1970s when Professor Andries Brink, then practicing as a cardiac specialist at the Tygerberg Hospital, treated a baby who was born with a very slow heart rate. The child's condition was so serious that she had to be fitted with a pacemaker, becoming the first baby in South Africa to be treated with a pacemaker. At the time, pacemakers were at an early stage of development and were almost the size of a brick. While Brink was treating the baby, he became aware of another child who also needed a pacemaker. This child was a close relative of the baby under his care. He then examined the mother and found evidence of a similar underlying disease, but not as advanced as that of the baby. This lead Brink to believe that he was dealing with a family problem and he asked Dr Marie TORRINGTON to trace other families. She found most of them living in the Eastern Cape and that the carrier of the defective gene arrived at the Cape from Portugal. He married a woman of Dutch descent in Stellenbosch in 1735. Today, all South Africans affected by progressive familial heart block I are descendants of this couple.

Roughly 50% of children born to an affected person will be carriers. Of these about two thirds will need a pacemaker at some stage, according to Corfield. A very small percentage of them will show no evidence of the disease on an electrocardiogram, even though they carry the gene, while others will display an underlying electrical glitch. The disease can occur any time from birth until old age and in some cases it has been identified in utero. Today it can be managed with the timely implantation of a pacemaker, but before the advent of this device it often claimed the lives of patients affected by the condition.

Ignácio FERREIRA statue
in Humansdorp
Ignácio FERREIRA was born in 1695 in Lisbon, Portugal to Manuel FERREIRA and Antónia Francisca (from Alcântara, a suburb of Lisbon). He was baptised on 01 Nov 1695 in the Catholic church "Nossa Senhora da Ajuda". On 16-17 June 1722 a powerful north-westerly wind hit the Cape. On the morning of the 17th, ten ships were found wrecked and stranded, including the Chandos, an English East India Company ship. The Chandos was on its return voyage from Bengal to England. Today the Chandos is buried under reclaimed land near the Castle in Cape Town. The 27-year-old Ignácio FERREIRA was a surviving sailor on the Chandos. He decided to stay at the Cape and entered the service of the Dutch East India Company as a soldier.

On 06 November 1735, Ignácio (later Ignatius) FERREIRA married the 18-year-old Martha TERBLANCHE in Stellenbosch. They had 10 children. All the children were given Dutch names. In 1748, Ignácio applied for tenure of a stock farm called "De Hartebeest Kuijl" near Mossel Bay. The original homestead and a portion of the farm is today under the water of the dam supplying Mossel Bay. From here the family spread through the Langkloof, Karoo, to the Gamtoos Valley, throughout the Eastern Cape and beyond. Ignácio FERREIRA died on 24 May 1772 at the age of 77 years.


In October 1945, the Liberty ship SS Samnesse sailed into Durban Harbour, bringing returning servicemen and tanks from Europe. The ship was built in the United States during World War II and transferred to the British Ministry of War Transportation upon completion.

The only woman aboard was Elena VAN PRAAG (born 27 November 1920).  She was the girlfriend of Captain George Samuel JENNINGS (born 25 December 1914) of the 6th South African Armoured Division. Elena was of Dutch-Jewish descent and had grown up in Italy where her father, Barend, owned a shipping business in Genoa. In 1940 the VAN PRAAG family was forced into civilian internment. Her father lost his business and Elena’s reign as an equestrian champion was over. Banished from their home in Genoa, they left behind their work helping German Jews escape Europe via Italy, including Albert EINSTEIN's sister. They found refuge in Florence where their apartment in the Palazzo della Gherardesca backed on to a garden which the Germans occupied from 1943 until the Allies took over in 1944. This is where Elena met George.

George was tasked with marking the route north for his division, as well as driving Major-General Evered POOLE on his daily traverse of the Monte Cassino Pass, always under sniper fire. For this he was mentioned in dispatches. Elena’s father often hosted officers at home and one day he offered George a night’s accommodation. Elena met the young officer in the dining-room the next morning. At the end of the war, George managed to get Elena a berth on the SS Samnesse. Elena sailed out with 13 pieces of luggage, including a pasta machine.

In Durban, Elena was met by Stan CONKER, who had served as a Sergeant with George. At the same time, an official approached her and told her that she had been declared an "undesirable immigrant" and was to be repatriated within the week. She had to stay with Stan at his home until she boarded another ship back to Europe, where she worked for the Allies in their clean-up operations until 1947 when George was finally able to take her to South Africa.

The couple were married on 25 April 1947 and leased a guest farm in Munster, Natal. Elena had gone ahead of George and set about clearing lands and setting up a home. The farm had a party line telephone. Not being familiar with this system, every time the phone rang Elena picked it up, until the operator, Dulcie SAWYER, at the Munster Trading Post, shouted at her. Thereafter she wouldn’t touch it and eventually a policeman arrived on horseback to check on her because George couldn’t get hold of her.

Cecil BLAKE, a South African Airways pilot, was often a guest at the farm during sardine season. During his Johannesburg-Durban-Cape Town flights, he would drop a copy of the Sunday Times newspaper, weighted with a bag of sweets, onto the front lawn and repeat the service for the Port Edward Hotel. Whenever he flew over, he buzzed the guest farm. One day he spotted George kite fishing, so he severed his line. George retaliated by launching some kind of explosive device at the Dakota the next time the aircraft flew over. Unfortunately, Cecil wasn’t the pilot and the pilot reported being attacked. Cecil was in the office, overheard him, and realised it must have been George.

When the farm lease ran out, they decided to run the post office in Port Edward. George became the postmaster with Elena as his assistant and telephone operator. There was very little in Port Edward in 1957: a few rondavels at the Police Holiday Camp, the hotel, a couple of stores and a few cottages. John MPOFU, who had come from Munster with them, would wheel the postbags to the railway bus stop at the entrance to Port Edward every day. He would often take a nap in the wheelbarrow, head pillowed on the post bags - he and George started their postal work at 4:00 a.m.

In 1972, George was diagnosed with cancer and given nine months to live. The cobalt treatment worked, but left him with colon problems and he had to retire. Elena took over as postmistress and George spent his time as chairman of the town board for eight years. Although this was a voluntary position, he got the roads tarred and organised the construction of the civic buildings. Elena was also a capable draughtsperson and was responsible for drawing up plans for various buildings. George discovered that the defunct golf course was about to be lost and fundraised enough to revive it and build a small clubhouse. George loved playing golf and continued to play with the aid of a scooter when cancer incapacitated him. He battled poor health for 17 years. He passed away in Port Edward on 21 February 1988. His ashes were scattered on the seventh hole of his beloved golf course.

From the back of her cottage, Elena had a view over the golf course and from the front, a panoramic view of the Indian Ocean. She passed away in Port Edward on 30 October 2016.

Ruth FIFIELD was born in Johannesburg and became an English teacher in Port Shepstone. Her writing interests include local history, and that is how she got to spend Monday afternoons with Elena to record her life story. Eight years later, in September 2014, Ruth’s book, The Postmaster's Mistress, a 316-page biography, was published by Partridge Publishing. The book is available in softcover and e-book on Amazon.