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Farewell to a True Man of Steel

The Board and team at the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC), together with local and international members and colleagues, mourn the loss of the SAISC’s CEO, Paolo Trinchero, who passed away on Sunday the 21st of August, at the age of 53, after a brave battle with cancer. Paolo was the CEO for the past 9 years, since 2013.

Paolo was involved in the steel industry for some 30 years, having graduated with a BSc in Civil Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand (‘Wits’) in 1990. Following this, Paolo completed his master’s degree in 1993, where he was introduced to the workings of the SAISC through the Steel Design Code Committee. After spending some additional time as a lecturer at Wits, Paolo joined the SAISC in 1998 as a Consulting Development Engineer and Technology Director.

To gain some commercial experience, he then joined Macsteel Trading as an Engineering Manager in 2003 to start its cellular beam division, and ultimately became Group Business Development and Technical Director at Macsteel Corporate Services. Throughout his 11 years at Macsteel, Paolo never lost touch with the SAISC and in 2013, he returned to the Institute as its CEO.

Passionate about steel

Paolo was passionate about anything related to steel: from its many practical applications in projects to the annual celebration of its many uses in the annual Steel Awards – which Paolo presided over with great pride as many will fondly remember – and in the technical knowledge-sharing SAISC breakfasts, sessions and other forums he led over the years. He was equally passionate about communicating steel’s myriad uses and applications throughout industry and in daily life – and the importance and relevance of the SAISC as a representative industry body.

Paolo was also a tireless, selfless and dedicated champion of the steel sector at public and private sector levels:  doing everything he could for the good of the sector, in the face of the last few very challenging years which it has faced. In this regard, all facets of innovation – including ‘green’ or renewable steel – really fascinated him, and he was a strong proponent of innovation and sustainability throughout the sector.

Paolo was in addition an enthusiastic driver of the steel sector’s participation in the development of pan-African infrastructure: from mining projects to commercial high-rise buildings and other steel structures.

As if all the above did not keep him busy enough, Paolo was also involved in several projects – from conception through to fabrication- in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.

“I knew Paolo since 2011 when I joined the Institute, and he was a member of the board. Paolo was absolutely dedicated to the interests of the steel industry and his colleagues – there was nothing that he wouldn’t do to promote structural steel. He was unique in mixing both technical and business acumen to promote the industry’s agenda, which allowed him to be on Industry Policy committees while also serving on Technical committees.

Given all the industry turmoil during his tenure, I think it is fair to say that Paolo’s greatest contribution to the local steel construction industry is that today, the Steel Institute in South Africa is still in existence – and which, incidentally, is one of only 6 such institutes around the world” – Amanuel Gebremeskel, SAISC Acting CEO.

“Having worked with Paolo for just under 7 years, I can say that he employed a calm and measured, considerate, and diplomatic approach to his work. Paolo was methodical and disciplined and understood the intricacies of the industry. He was able to engage with role players from all parts of the value chain, with respect – motivated by a deep desire to see people and business succeed.

An academic at heart, Paolo’s ‘happy place’ was sharing his passion and knowledge to equip the next generation of engineers. Heartfelt messages of condolence have been pouring in from former Wits students, sharing what an ongoing impact he had on their career development. Sadly, because of the decrease in education funding the SAISC’s ability to engage extensively with universities diminished over the years. Paolo poured a tremendous amount of effort into trying to win back that financial support. Industry turmoil took a heavy toll on him. As a way of honouring his legacy, the SAISC is setting up a “New Generation” education fund aimed at reinvigorating university engagement programs which support sustainability, growth and innovation in the steel sector.

I concur with Amanuel in saying the fact that we still have an Institute is a credit to Paolo’s character, and his ability to steer the ship through troubled waters to explore new horizons. He understood that the strength of the industry – and the Institute – lay in technical competence and a sense of community. I hope that his legacy of care, concern and technical strength will live on in the people and the Institute which he leaves behind,” – Denise Sherman, SAISC Marketing Director.

Paolo leaves behind his beloved wife Lora and their three children, Giulio, Angelo and Sabrina. He was a dedicated family man, and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this sad and difficult time.

A heart of steel – and gold

It has been an honour and privilege working with him – Paolo was our highly respected leader, our colleague, and our friend. We will remember him for generously and enthusiastically sharing his immense skill, wisdom, and knowledge for the good of the steel industry. We celebrate Paolo for the lasting positive impact he has had on the industry and on the lives of many in our sector. He truly was a ‘man with a heart of steel – and gold’.

We will miss you deeply Paolo, but are inspired by your example to continue your wonderful work in the steel sector.  Thank you for your moral compass. Thank you for your selflessness. Thank you for pouring out your skill, your heart, your effort and your knowledge for the good of the Steel industry as a whole.

As we grieve together, we ask that you join us in celebrating the lasting positive impact he has had on the lives of many in our industry. If you have any messages you would like to share please connect with our team , who will pass on any messages of condolence to his family.

Take care, prioritise your health, and never miss an opportunity to celebrate the small joys with friends and family.

Life is simply too short.

The Board and team of the SAISC


Condolences received from the industry at large:

Dr Hennie De Clerq, Former CEO of SAISC
I feel I need to say it to somebody that, like all of us, I feel very sad about Paolo’s passing away at such a young age. I had a lot of respect for him. He was always a very nice and easy guy to work with, and very able. His morals were of the highest standard.

It bothers me that his tenure at the Institute could hardly have been very pleasant. When the money tap gets turned off stress is the inevitable result. It almost makes me feel guilty that I was at the Institute while the sun was shining (Kurt left us with a comfortable financial situation that I only needed to build on) and that we could have a lot of fun organising events, writing books and doing other enjoyable things that are relatively free of politics. I was hoping Paolo could just continue from there, but for some time while I was still around it was clear that things were getting a lot tougher. That really makes me sad.

Fuzile Felix Fongoqa, Chairman of the Construction Sector Charter Council (CSCC)

I’ve known Paolo since our varsity at Wits. He’s always been a gentleman who turned out to be a giant in the steel industry, serving its interests very well. In our interactions at the CSCC, he was genuinely saddened by the downturn in the steel industry and was always sharing his vision, seeking advice and any possible intervention in saving the businesses of his members and the jobs of the people they employ.

Despite all of this, he remained committed to the transformation of the construction industry and was an advocate of the consistent implementation to the sector codes to ensure an even playing field.  He will be sadly missed by those of us who had the privilege of interacting with him.

Kobus de Beer, Former SAISC / POLASA Industry Development Executive

Thank you for advising me and our many associates of the sad news. I was in communication with Paolo last week. I helped to select and appoint him and then worked with and for Paolo as Industry Development Executive from the time of his appointment as CEO of the Institute of Steel Construction up to my retirement in 2019. He accepted the many challenges of running an Industry Association with enthusiasm and energy – indeed a ‘man of steel’! His disappointment at the drop in financial support from industry was matched by his determination and discipline to keep managing the Institute and its finances carefully and cleverly.

Under his leadership the Institute embarked on many new ventures or found new ways of dealing with the many demands of our members. Elizabeth and I extend our most sincere condolences to all of you as well as Lora and the kids and mom in-law, who is a personal friend.

Mike Benfield, CEO, Macsteel

The news of Paolo’s passing has left us deeply saddened. Please accept our sincerest and most heartfelt condolences. Paolo will be missed as a pillar of wisdom and strength in the steel industry. Not only was he a fountain of knowledge, but he was a genuinely unselfish person with the most positive attitude. As a result, he was able to bring people together to iron out our issues. He always had the prospects of the industry in mind, and we valued that he acted as a key spokesperson for industry at government level.

May the huge impact that Paolo made on so many levels and the legacy that he leaves behind, bring you solace in this time of mourning.

Sqhelo Ntshobane, Deputy Director: Metals 1, Capital Equipment and Metals, Department of Trade, Industry and Competition

It is with shock that I learned of the passing of Paolo. I will miss him. His knowledge of the industry and willingness to share that knowledge was invaluable to me as a policy maker.

May God comfort his family and His Soul Rest In Eternal Peace.

Ingrid Campbell, Director Group Support Services, WBHO

I had the privilege of working very closely with Paolo during the 3-year negotiations on the Amended Construction Sector Codes and am truly devastated to hear of his passing. Paolo gave his all – and was an invaluable member of our team, bringing his strength, wisdom and calm to the negotiating table and all meetings. Paolo was passionate about the steel and construction Industry and will be sorely missed, both as a colleague and a friend.

Alan van Rooyen, Business Development, Vital Engineering

My most sincere condolences to Paolo’s family and to all of you at SAISC (current and previous staff included). I know that he touched all your lives in some way. I have had the pleasure of knowing Paolo from the late 1990’s when we first crossed paths at an SAISC function. I had the utmost respect for his vast technical capability and in the way he conducted himself, his humility and probably most of all, his genuine passion for the steel industry – through the good times and tough periods. He never flinched to take on the hard tasks for the good of the industry.

I was able to meet with him in March this year to catch up. Paolo was a true gentleman, and a man who has left us too soon. He leaves a legacy, and his presence will be sorely missed within SAISC and the Steel industry.

Rest in peace Paolo.

Miguel Tavares, Regional Director, WSP

This is very sad news indeed. Please extend our most sincere condolences to Paolo’ s family and friends. A huge loss to our whole South African engineering family.

Anton van Dyk, Nako Group

Dear Paolo,

You were one of the greatest gentlemen that I ever knew.  Your unconditional love, guidance and service to others will remain as one of your legacies.  I am grateful for the privilege to have worked with you.

Paul Rebelo, Director, Cadcon

Our deepest condolences to the Trinchero family and his family at the SAISC. We were deeply saddened to hear of Paolo’s passing. He was so highly respected amongst his peers, colleagues and SAISC members. A truly remarkable man who will be sorely missed.

We, at Cadcon, will remember Paolo with fond memories for all the assistance he has provided to us and the industry over the years.  It’s true to say that steel really flowed through Paolo’s veins.

Rest in peace Paolo, and may your soul fly with the angels.