The Dutch-South African connection: sustainability and slippers


FW de Klerk

Last Friday, 12 June, under the banner of ‘Sustainability and Africa’, the Delft University of Technology welcomed former President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner, F.W. de Klerk (in the middle), who was instrumental in brokering the end of Apartheid. He told the small audience, “even though I have been in government very long, don’t trust the government too much”.

De Klerk was invited to the Netherlands by the Amsterdam-based KidsRights foundation, a joint founder of the ‘Plakkies’ slipper initiative, a successful venture started by two Delft University of Technology students. Like some Dutch people in this video, I didn’t think much of these slippers, but with some background information, not just some uppity Afrikaans advert, it made more sense.

Designed by Michel Boerrigter, plakkies (Afrikaans for ‘slippers’), are made of used car tyres and were made hip and trendy for the ‘Western market’, with South African children drawing the designs that go on them. The profit goes towards a good cause and the business employs 70 people. The only disadvantage is that they do smell of used car tyres when you first buy them, but Boerrigter reassures people that this extra charm disappears quickly enough.

(Link: tudelft, Photo: Etienne)

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