Corporate social investment is an integral part of our group’s mainstream activities – both as a component of our scorecard for internal transformation and a cornerstone of our corporate accountability and governance programme. Collectively, Altron companies spent approximately R10 million on corporate social investment projects during the year.

Each year, corporate social investment practitioners throughout the group convene to share information, successes and lessons learned to ensure a co-ordinated approach and capitalise on synergies between group companies and maximise the impact for individual projects.

Recognising that no single company can meet all the needs of a developing nation, one of our group companies, Altech, for instance, continually looks for opportunities to maximise the impact of its social investment funds through its own marketing activities and those of its subsidiaries. A prime example of this approach was the R4-million sponsorship of the Altech Grand Prix in the previous reporting period which generated R6 million for Unite Against Hunger and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

Activities and projects supported by group companies are aligned with formal guidelines instituted in the prior reporting period and supplemented by workshops across the group on implementation at operational level. This has brought an important element of cohesion to social investment and channelled activities towards attaining common goals – particularly in the areas of education and training and bridging the digital divide. Some highlights of the period include:

  • The official opening of the R1-million Langa Multi-media Centre in Cape Town – a project spearheaded by BTG with the assistance of other group companies. At the launch, the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor remarked, “The Langa Multimedia Centre is an investment not only in the education of the Langa youth attending the school; but an investment in future generations. The need for computer literacy skills cannot be overemphasised in today’s world.”

The new centre, which benefits over 1 300 learners and the surrounding community, features 31 of the latest Hewlett Packard workstations and desks, a server, network and power system, air- conditioning, a state-of-the-art projector, laptops for educators and a work centre with copier, fax and scanner-printer. The centre also has a complete security system.

Training is being provided to teachers – from basic to internationally advanced courses –and on- site training support is in place to enable teachers already trained to, in turn, train others. Apart from supplying equipment and training, BTG will also support the centre financially for a further two years – from infrastructure and technical support to paper supplies and security monitoring.

  • An investment of almost R1 million in soccer development by Altech Autopage Cellular which will see hundreds of young players from underprivileged communities run onto the field in new kit. This is intended to become a five-year project.
  • The fully-equipped computer centre for the 900 scholars at Boikanyo Primary School in Garankuwa which is an excellent example of the benefit of collaboration between the community, provincial government and the private sector, spearheaded by Altech NamITech.
  • The Altech UEC Multi-Media winter school, in conjunction with Protec, which continues to expose scholars to careers in the fields of science and mathematics while developing their skills in these key subjects.
  • A joint venture with Foundation Beersheba of The Netherlands, which Aeromaritime International Management Services (AIMS) has spearheaded for the electrification of Bertharry Private School in Tembisa. AIMS has also funded the construction of six classrooms at the school.

Supporting education

Bursaries covering various fields of study relevant to the group, and predominantly for disadvantaged students, are awarded by many subsidiaries.

The BTG bursar programme follows a longterm policy of development and placement of young, highly-skilled talent. Many of the bursars shown here are in the final year of their BSc Technology degree or in an Honours programme at a local university. Two bursars already have fulltime employment in BTG companies, and another three are scheduled to join fulltime in 2006.

Volunteerism is an important element in the success of many of these initiatives and, at every level, Altron’s people are willing participants:

  • At Bytes Technology Group the staff donated food and clothing to the Kidz Crisis Centre and Yenzani Children’s Home, both in Gauteng.

Our rainbow nation

In a nation with 11 official languages, multi-lingualism can be both a challenge and an advantage if well managed, which spurred Bytes Document Solutions to become a major funder of North West University’s Centre for Text Technology (CTexT).

Human language technology is a rapidly growing field, but relatively new in South Africa. The applications developed by CTexT will enable every South African to learn to communicate in any language they choose using multi-media applications to acquire the basics of a new language in 45 hours at home or in the office. Products already developed at CTexT include two language-learning software packages, Ngenani! isiZulu and Tsenang! Setswana.

CTexT is working closely with Microsoft’s local language programme which facilitates the development of localised software and proofing tools for minority languages. Apart from localisation work for Afrikaans and Setswana, spell-checkers are also being developed for isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa and Setswana.

In a collaborative effort between various disciplines, organisations and the university, researchers hope to contribute significantly to the promotion of multilingualism and diversity in the country.

Arts and culture

Altron is a significant sponsor of South Africa’s arts and culture. This is effected through the group’s CSI programme and, by chairman Dr Bill Venter in his personal capacity. The Bill Venter/Altron Literary Awards date back 19 years and is presented annually to recognise outstanding contributions to research published in book form by tertiary educators. This award, prized as much for its significant monetary value as for its prestige, helps to promote specialised works locally and internationally and alternates between contributions to the humanities and natural sciences each year. The 2006 recipient was Professor Achille Mbembe from the WISER faculty of Wits University for his work, “On the Postcolony”. Past recipients include:

Year Recipient Research
2000 Prof Vivian Bickford-Smith
(University of Cape Town)

Ethnic Pride and Racial Prejudice in Victorian Cape Town

  Prof Michael Chapman
(University of KwaZulu-Natal)

Southern African Literatures

2001 Prof Elemer E Rossinger
(University of Pretoria)

Parametric Lie Group Actions on Global Generalised Solutions of Nonlinear PDEs

2002 Prof George Devenish
(University of KwaZulu-Natal)

A Commentary of the SA Bill of Rights

  Prof John Higgins
(University of Cape Town)

Raymond Williams Literature, Marxism and Cultural Materialism

2003 Prof Detlev Kroger
(University of Stellenbosch)

Air-cooled Heat Exchangers and Cooling Towers

2004 Prof Jeff Guy
(University of KwaZulu-Natal)

The view across the river: Harriette Colenso and the Zulu struggle against Imperialism The UDF: A history of the United Democratic Front in South Africa

  Prof Jeremy Seekings
(University of Cape Town)

Change and continuity in spatial planning Metropolitan planning in Cape Town under political transition

2005 Prof Vanessa Watson
(University of Cape Town)
Bursaries and awards are also offered to students of journalism and music for international studies. There are currently six young classical musicians studying in various foreign countries on the Bill Venter/Altron/FAK music bursary project.

Bursaries and awards are also offered to students of journalism and music for international studies. There are currently six young classical musicians studying in various foreign countries on the Bill Venter/Altron/FAK music bursary project.