“A pessimist finds difficulty at every opportunity but an optimist finds an opportunity in every difficulty!’
There is just one traffic light in Mooi River. It’s a stop street sort of town.
Moving here, into the unknown, was a big decision for Durbanite, Cliffie Daniels, who is the Specialist Incident Manager for the N3 between Cedara and Midway. “For about a year, my family and I made lists of pros and cons. The pros won”, he says. For the past four years, Cliffie has spent week nights in Mooi River and alternative weekends with his family – wife – Auriel, and children Ryan, Erin, and Ethan. Soon, they all hope to move to the Midlands permanently, to enjoy the cooler, less humid weather. “There have been sacrifices we made as a family, but we are sure to reap the rewards.”
The Daniels family are extremely close despite being spread across the country. “My uncle in Kimberley was always very good at gathering the whole clan for Christmas carols in December. He thought it was important to see who was who, and for the kids to meet their cousins.” Living conveniently alongside the N3 motorway means that no one passes by from Jo’burg or Kimberley or Durban without stopping to spend time with Cliffie. He loves showing them around the town, often stopping at the Stations Master’s Arms, beside the railway tracks for lunch.
In just a few years, Cliffie has become an integral part of this community. “My kids laugh because wherever we go someone waves and says hello. They think I know everybody here!” Mr Jackson, who was ‘born, bred and buttered’ in Mooi River and has been repairing shoes in Market Street forever, is always pleased when Cliffie stops by for a chat. Mr Suliman from Farm Fresh Fruiterers next door beams when Cliffie pops in to get some fresh vegetables. “He is a good man,” Sulie says, “he will always stop to make sure you are ok. Give you some water, check if you need help.”
Building relationships with all the stakeholders involved along the N3 is a big part of his portfolio. Anyone need a favour? – Cliffie is the guy to call, always prepared to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in. Paul Greyling, Traffic and Safety Manager for Mpofana Municipality, agrees that he is one of the few people who really has a passion for what he does and knows his job very well. “He is kind and compassionate, always available and prepared to help – this includes assisting stranded motorists and helping all the different emergency services. No matter the time of day or night he comes to our rescue – in snow, hail, rain and on very hot days, Cliffie is there working hard. He is always prepared to share his knowledge and energy.”
Donna Govender, Card Administrator for Tolcon, works closely with Cliffie, albeit for different companies focussed on the N3 route. They share many light hearted moments while doing their work. “Cliffie exudes warmth and friendliness, bringing smiles to the faces of any one he meets” she says. It seems that turning strangers into friends is what he does every day.
For twenty years before this, Cliffie got to live every little boy’s dream – he was a fireman. “Being a fireman is not a job,” he says, “it is a passion.” He really loved his occupation, and his wife, particularly enjoyed the times he was on nightshift and did all the cooking! “My lamb curry is famous, I know she misses that especially.” He says with a smile. The Fire Department was really a home away from home – with long hours on standby, and everyone took turns to cook for their colleagues. Cliffie believes the time spent there gave him a good grounding for the job he does now. “There is still the adrenaline rush of getting called to an incident and many of the skills I learnt, I can use here too.” He exudes a positive, ccan-do attitude. Clearly, responding to people in need is a real pleasure for him.
Despite his obvious commitment to his job, it is not all work and no play for Cliffie. On Saturday mornings he cycles with his family and in the afternoons loves to catch a Liverpool or Sharks game on TV. He grabs any opportunity to light up the braai fire with friends or to show visitors to Durban where to get the very best Bunny Chow in town (at Hollywood in Springfield Park). A big fan of Jazz Fusion, he uses quiet times to practice playing the saxophone he got for his 40th birthday.
Often, he spots buck in the field beside the country road while he is driving at night, or Blue Cranes flying over his house in the mornings. “I really love being so close to nature here in this small town.” He also helps collect road kill data for the EWT Wildlife and Roads Project’s ongoing efforts to minimise the impact of roads on wildlife. During summer, thousands of Amur Falcons roost into the trees in the town, making a huge racket and fascinating the locals. Fortunately, they don’t need Cliffie’s assistance to sort out the congestion, so he can join the fascinated birders with their binoculars instead.
Mooi River is full of surprises – Cliffie is just one delightful example.