Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Apartheid Koffiefontein, Koffiepit, 1987

< 1987. De Beers Koffiefontein's old Traction Engine.


Playing Luister, I interviewed employees, wrote job descriptions, administered job evaluation, drew organization-structure diagrams, checked labour-complement requests against labour forecasts, and maintained job evaluation and job directory files. I wrote Koffiepit copy, edited employees' contributions, interviewed employees and dorpenaars, visited the kindergarten and Koffie Skool, chatted to principals and took photographs.

Koffiefontein Club was situated between white company houses and dorp houses. Behind Koffie Club, a golf course stretched up a hill, overlooking the dorp and mine-pit. Opposite Koffie Club, a phallic, grey stone WW1 memorial was laagered by sweet-thorns and pepper trees. I played snooker in Koffie Club, chatted to Koffie Club manager, and attended sports and community functions.

< 1987. Koffiefontein's WW1 Memorial.


I chatted to Alleman who managed company hostels and community services. I photographed a kitchen in the black hostel, and photographed black, male, single employees in their barrack hostel near a mine dump. Married black employees lived in Ditlhake, where some bought company subsidized pondoks. White, single male employees had their own hostel near Koffie Club. Each month, I sent 20-30 A4 draft Koffiepit pages and photographs to Kimberley Head Office editor, who printed galleys, which I proof-read and returned. Kimberley did final printing, and I distributed Koffiepit free to employees, dorpenaars and other mines.

White security-officers (ex cops) showed me their riot gear and shotguns which they locked away. One had a wooden carving of a landmine as a paperweight. They looked nervous when black employees toyi-toyied to work. Two white security-officers were dismissed for IDB.

My Koffiepit photos included metallurgy conveyors and crushers; Elmco Secoma drill-rigs for tunnel-rounds; Terex haul-trucks; workshop machinery; R1000 000 load-haul dumpers; Tamrock minimatic face-rigs for tunnel-rounds and roof-bolt holes; survey office drawings; employees being presented long-service awards; new emulsion-explosives plant, offices, staff garages, mining equipment, houses, replanted grass; revamped gardens; proto-team rescuers led by Craton ventilation manager. (Mark JS Esslemont, Editor, Koffiepit, Editions No. 1 August 1987 - No. 10 May 1988, De Beers Consolidated Mines, Swiftprint, Kimberley, 1987, 1988).

When Craton invited me underground to take photos, I donned overall, black boots, plastic hard-hat, got a lamp from the lamp-room, then attached my lamp to my white hard-hat and the battery-pack to my belt, then plunged underground in the skip. I snapped Sotho drill-riggers, roof-bolt gangers, ventilation equipment and engineering machines. In 2002, Craton was killed in a helicopter crash near Premier mine.

I drove Dweet to Kimberley Hospital to see her Aussie engineer husband, who'd been buried alive in a rockfall, and freed by a Tswana mineworker. Aussie came from the operating-theatre unconscious, his body cut and stitched. I had a nystagmus attack on our hot drive back to Koffiefontein, and had to pull over to recover.

Doc. McGill, musty, retired schoolmaster, who'd taught at Koffie Skool, had written A History of Koffiefontein Mine and Town, and brought me history copy for publishing in Koffiepit. "During WW2," boasted Doc. McGill, "I wrote to the military, recommending Koffiefontein as an internment camp, thus Koffiefontein became a concentration camp during WW2."

Doc McGill wrote about the Boer War, and Brits and Boers battling near Koffiefontein. Western Jacobsdal was a Boer supply depot. Koffiefontien mine GM went through the war unscathed, but once a Boer had him in his Mauser sights when the GM forded Riet Rivier. After the war the Boer said, "I recognized you, so didn't shoot a good Rooinek mine manager." South-east, New Zealand soldiers were blooded at Colesburg. New Zealand Hill was named after them. At that time, my maternal grandpa, Rev. Cosnett, was Wesleyan minister in Colesburg.

When British troops came up the railway line from Cape Town, general Lord Methuen beat Boers at Belmont, Graspan and Enslin, but at Modder River, generaal Koos de la Rey hid Boers behind Modder River bank and shot Tommy Atkins to hell. De la Rey then hid Boers in trenches below Magersfontein hills, twelve miles south of Kimberley, and shot Brits to hell an' gone. In February 1900, Lord Roberts besieged general Cronje at Paardeberg along Modder River. After 10 days of fighting. Cronje surrendered his 4000 strong Boer army. Cronje was exiled to St. Helena, where Napoleon and Dinizulu were formerly interned. (Rayne Kruger, Goodbye Dolly Gray, The Story of the Boer War, Book Club Association, Swindon, Pan, London, 1983).

< 1987. Mackintosh & Esslemont, Magersfontein Boer War Memorial.


I snapped Boer War sites and the WW2 guard house, last internment building, near the dorp campsite. I snapped Italian POW graves in the white cemetery near Riet Rivier. The separate Ditlhake black cemetery was also by Riet Rivier.

See Anglo-Boer War Museum, Bloemfontein, including Magersfontein Battle, Black Week.



1987 Koffiefontein. Fresco done by an Italian WW2 POW of Benito Mussolini on an internment camp wall. >

2 comments:

Desiree Johnson said...

Good day Mark,

I would very much like to use some of your photos from your blog on Koffiefontein for a South African Travel guide; naturally your website will be acknowledged as my source.

I await your urgent reply and thank you in anticipation.

Desiree Johnson
info@travel-in-southafrica.co.za

Mark JS Esslemont said...

After email exchange, permission granted Desiree, for the specified 3 "memorials" pics with acknowledgements in your SA travel ebook. Regards.