Jan van Eden|
bio - biography
Stories of our life in the foreign
1972-1974 Republic of South Africa
[original in English and Spanish]
1972-1974 Republic of South Africa
1972-1974 Republic of South Africa
[traduccion en Español]
Towards the end of 1972 we
left Zambia with pain in our hearts, as here Pepa and I spent our first few
years together as if it were an extended honeymoon. We had been looking for jobs
in Latin America, but to no avail and we had an aborted attempt to work with a
geophysical consulting firm in Australia, cancelled because of a sudden collapse
of the market for minerals over there. So finally we went to South Africa under
a contract with African Selection Trust. To save money they required us to
return to Holland and emigrate from there to the Republic of South Africa (RSA),
which was paid for by the government of The Netherlands. So much for the
official ‘disapproval’ of the apartheid system, they stimulated immigration of
whites into the Republic. I got a visa straight away but for Pepa it took a few
months probably because her declared Roman Catholic religion. Filling out the
extensive questionnaire for entrance to the RSA you had to be careful, if, for
example, you filled in ‘no religion’ you was branded a communist and could
forget to be admitted to the Republic.
101 John Adamson Drive
(January 1973) [73-John Adamson Drive-Joburg]
At home (January 1973)
10 January 1973
Starting to work for
African Selection Trust based in Johannesburg, we rented a house at 101 John
Adamson Drive, Montgomery Park. John Adamson drive is carved in our memory as we
made acquaintance with the next door neighbours, in particular
(then 7 years old) the son of Rie Winkler, who had just lost her husband in a
tragic accident. Rie Winkler also alleviated our social life as she introduced
us to a mad crowd of an advertising firm personnel that were quite alternative
in their social attitudes. This gave us a space to breath in the stifling
atmosphere of apartheid South Africa. We regularly got into nasty discussions;
because we didn’t full heartedly join in the apartheid delusions.
Pepa worked for an accountancy firm in the sphere of public health, based in the city centre of Johannesburg. Her work was much appreciated and the direction insisted on promoting her to more responsible positions,
which she did not want because of our uncertain future, asw we wanted to get out of Apartheid South Africa. At her birthday she came with cakes for her collegues at the office, as was customery. Not thinking twice, she went around with the sweets and included the second floor where mainly the blacks had their workplace. The day after she was summoned by
her superior to be carefull, because her collegues accused her of being a communist.
Rie Winkler (our neighbour
in Joburg) with Dorothy and Ken Bissett
and Pepa at the Donrichea farm - Tzaneen (June 1973)
Halfway this year we moved
to Tsaneen. There we were renting a cottage annex to a farm (Donrichea), high up in the
mountains. 'Paradise', we didn’t even have keys to our house.
My home-office in Tzaneen
Pepa and the yellow baboons
Pepa was, for many short periods, alone at the farm in Tsaneen.
One early morning she heard
noises in the valley as from a mass exuberant people and investigating she
noticed a group of yellow baboons gelding the banana plantation. They would
walk through it and plucking the fruit at random from the trees, destroying
rather than feeding themselves. In the meanwhile BB her Alsation was hiding
behind her, the dog was scared. Pepa ran back to the farm and took a riffle
to try and scare the baboons away. Whatever she tried she did not manage to
fire a shot . That evening the farmer told her she had been lucky, because
the shot would have broken her shoulder.
The following day the farmer waited for them with his double barrel shotgun
and killed one of the leading males, when hit, the baboon cried as a child
and dead as he was his rose hand palm was like that of a human being.
No need to say the group fled
into the forest without coming back over the next days.
8 junio 1973
Estamos unos 200 km de Tzaneen
acampando con una caravana. Jan va a trabajar en el Limpopo Mobile Belt al norte
de la republica en la frontera con Rhodesia y Botswana. Esta es la primera etapa
y estaremos quince días fuera de casa, pero ya sabemos que vivirá así al menos
30% del tiempo. Jan se va por la mañana al campo y por la tarde hace el trabajo
de oficina. Guardamos para lo ultimo los sitios peores que son al norte donde
esta seco y el terreno esta dividido en fincas donde solo crían vacas, y para
acampar tenemos que pedir permiso a los amos. El agua también es un problema en
aquella parte. A pesar de todo eso estoy segura que nos arreglamos bien. El
perro esta con nosotros nos hace compañía y sobretodo a mi me da seguridad, es
muy buena y obediente. Y los negros le tienen miedo, nunca ha mordida a nadie
pero a ellos le impresiona ver un perro así. [Pepa]
days we camped with a small caravan towed by a chevy pickup truck. The
areas with cattle were infested with ticks and at times my legs were covered
with thousands of these tiny animals, colouring my legs black. We had to
wash our legs with petrol to get rid of them. Even so I was infected and
suffered tick-bite fever for several days with painful swollen testicles.
African tick-bite fever is a bacterial infection that is spread through the
bite of infected ticks.
pickup truck for work with Africasn Selection trust in the northern
21 junio 1973
Estamos acampando en un sitio
horrible que me recuerda los pueblos en las películas del oeste donde todo esta
seco y lleno de polvo. Hay dos gasolineras una escuela, dos tiendas, el cuartel
de policía y el inspector de sanidad. El agua nos lo dan en la gasolinera y la
leche nos la traen cuando ordenan las vacas por la tarde. Jan tiene que recorrer
un área grande y por ahora solo recoge ejemplos (muestras de roca) en las
carreteras, después tendrá que elegir zonas y pagar a los dueños de las fincas
para hacer un trabajo mas detallado. Cuando sepa si hay posibilidades tendré que
arriesgarse y tomar decisiones. Todo cuesta muchísimo dinero y es como una
lotería nunca se sabe si va a valer la pena.[Pepa]
One day, coming back to
the Johannesburg head office Selection Trust for a progress report on the
Limpopo job, differences arose about my approach of the prospecting campaign.
This followed the removal of my direct supervisor (Wolhuter, the chief geologist
who had hired me) in the Johannesburg head office a few moths earlier, as part
of a management shake-up. I was summarily dismissed and paid the equivalent of
a plane ticket to the Netherlands for me and my wife as compensation.
Finding a new job for a
geologist with my experience was not too difficult. Mendelsohn, the former head
of the research department in Kalulushi Zambia, who was now running a
consultancy in Jo'burg, offered me employment. But finally I was integrated in
the newly established research department of JCI. In this job I would have to
travel to various prospects in the RSA, as well as neighbouring countries like
Rhodesia, South West Africa and Angola as a consultant to the project geologists
within my expertise as a sedimentoligist. This would include prospects for
strata bound copper, lead, zinc as well as uranium.
Bibi, Pepa and Jan - 4 Brooklyn Drive, Roodepoort (RSA)
Pepa cleaning her MGB - 4 Brooklyn Drive, Roodepoort
(RSA) (November 1973)
On the 3d of November
1973 I started to work for the Geologic Research Department of Johannesburg
Consolidated Investment Company Ltd., at Randfontein, Transvaal. We rented a
house in Roodepoort and Pepa went to work at a Pharmaceutical payment offices.
They were very happy to have her there, but one day her boss, who asked her to
be careful, because her colleagues were saying that she was a communist, called
her in. He was quite right, because anybody not accepting the apartheid was by
definition a communist. Our house had a large garden and Bibi our German
shepherd loved to run around, soon wearing out her own trail. As I was away from
home for weeks on time, she was good company for Pepa and she gave her a sense
of security. She was a smart dog knowing when to be scared and when to act. In a
previous situation, in Tsaneen she was hiding behind Pepa when a large group of
yellow baboons ravaged the downhill banana plantation, while Pepa stood watching
helplessly. An attacking dog would be ripped to pieces. But now in Roodepoort she barked and
held at the gate half a dozen blacks that came after our garden boy who
apparently had a relation with Ana our housemaid or whatever they didn’t accept.
Ana was living in an annex behind the garage. Pepa talked to these men to
discourage them, and did not let them in, so the garden boy escaped unhurt. In
the meanwhile our neighbours wife looked on through the window terrified, but
without giving any support. That night Pepa did get a good fright when our
next-door neighbour came to a belated rescue and wanting to investigate, shotgun
in hand he kicked the door of the servants quarters as in the movies, with all
the usual offensive talk about niggers. Fortunately nobody there…
For me the
job with J.C.I. was exiting. South Afica is a playground for geologists because
of its diversity in geologic environments, the giant geologic timespan and the
high degree of exposure. The variety and economic importance of its mineral
resources can not be overstated.
The acronym "JCI", one of the
best-known icons of South Africa's mining history, originated with the
Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company Limited founded in 1889 by Barney
Barnato. At the turn of the century JCI was responsible for a considerable
portion of the development of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand, supplying
capital to create the city's first waterworks, the first residential suburbs and
to help establish gold and platinum mines.
After the liberation movement of the
ANC in an heroic struggle overcame apartheid in 1994 there was in the late 1990s
and early 2000s a period of economic chaos during which the once-proud mining
houses JCI, Western Areas and Randgold were run into the ground by the
malversations of late Brett Kebble (Chief Executive Officer of JCI from 2003)
who quietly transferred and sold shares in London-listed Randgold & Resources
(R&R) while creditors and shareholders of JCI believed they were backed by R&R
shares worth R1.2 billion. Kebble was, extremely good at his game, up to the
point when the inverted pyramid crashed in mid-2005. He utterly scammed the new
political elite and investors with his
patriotic-white-friend-of-black-empowerment hustle. The ANC participated happily
in this crony-capitalism and the rot spread right to the top. ANC Treasurer
Mendi Msimang argued in a 2010 court deposition, against the Kebble trustees’
attempt to retrieve R3.5 million from the ANC that “donors receive value for the
funds donated” because in the South African political climate, “the gallant
effort and contribution of the ANC” would keep their investments safe (Patrick
However, in the Seventies
the company still thrived on its gold and platinum mining properties and J.C.I.
had an innovative exploration program while some recent discoveries that gave it
an enviable reputation. They used me as an internal consultant on sedimentary
stratiform mineral deposits, advising on prospects in the R.S.A., Mozambique,
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola.
Stratiform copper and zinc mineralization in the Cretaceous of Angola: ECON.
GEOL., v. 73, p. 1154-1161.
Continuation of the story: 1974 Angola