It was high noon though it played out at night and the rule was simple: who kills the most rats wins.
This unlikely contest pitted Joburg against a team of oddball inventors, who had developed a trap they believed could finally end Gauteng’s rat problem.
Across the test area, 20 examples of what the inventors had named the Hamelin trap were placed alongside wire cages, the council's preferred method to nab rodents.
After 14 days in September, the inventors claimed victory.
“We beat them hands down,” recalls Diederik van’t Hof: “Their traps got stolen and disappeared.”
The figure was 25 rats for the City and 81 for the inventors.
Jan van Niekerk, an operations manager in the City’s vector control unit, who was running the trial, reluctantly admitted the Hamelins did kill a lot of rats.
For the team, this was their Eureka and viva moment. It had taken them 37 attempts to come up with a rat trap that was both cheap and deadly.
The Hamelin is the creation of a team comprising two professional speakers, a kilt-maker-cum-engineer and an ex-tour guide. It was the two professional speakers, Abel Mukwevho and Simphiwe Makapela, who got it all rolling.
“We were sitting in Soweto, which has a lot of rats. So we started thinking of a plan of how can we get rid of these rats,” says Mukwevho.
The two came up with a design and patented it. Then they looked around for someone who could work with them on the project. This led them to Van’t Hof, who now runs a company that cleans ceilings and roofs. And with engineer Egbert Harmse, the rest is history.
The trap works in a manner similar to the swing-top dustbin lid. The top is flush with the ground and when the rat walks over it, its weight causes the door to open and the rat to fall into a bucket below.