Ephraim Papola


Matlhatsi Maubanemaubanemm@thevillagemag.co.za
15 JANUARY 2021

The skill of roofing called thatch roofing has been around for centuries and can be identified in many different cultures around the world; mainly those in warmer climates. This type of roofing is able to regulate the temperature of the building. For most people, it is an outdated and seemingly unattractive way of roof your home.

But for Mr. Ephraim Papola, who specializes in this particular type of roofing, learning the skill was not something that he had hoped to go into. He started this career after being unemployed for a long time and was recruited by his friend to join a company in Pretoria that specialized in Thatch roofing.

 “I initially did not want to be in this field of work. I wanted to work in a factory,” says Mr. Papola. He started working in Thatching in 1987 and has never looked back.

“It is much better to use thatch roof as it regulates climate within the house. When it is cold, the roofing makes the home warmer and when it is warm the roofing is much cooler”, says Mr. Papola. In the old days, this type of roofing was used to keep food fresh for longer and keep people who had passed on to reduce the decomposition process before burial. The specific straw (grass) used for the roofing is Cape reed and or common cordgrass. The cape reed is used to line the inside of the house much like a ceiling would and the cordgrass on the outer layer. Other advantages of thatch roofing are the expenses, it is much cheaper to use this type of roof, with one bundle of dry straw costing as little as R3.

The roof is very sustainable and it takes 35 years for it to need maintenance.  The prime time for material straw collection is from February to December. The material is then reaped and stored in instances of shortage.

One of the misconceptions of thatch roofing is that the roof will burn down. “It takes a lot of work to burn the roof. You will need to be deliberate if you wanted to burn the roof”, Mr. Papola laughed.

The journey of Mr. Papola in thatch roofing has taken him to many countries in Africa, countries like Botswana and Angola. He has also worked on big housing projects in Fourways for Summercon Property Development. His wish is to teach the younger generation in Marapyane and surrounding the skill but the youth has not shown interest and are not enthusiastic about learning.