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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 [translation English]

 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)  [72-MontgomeryPark-at-home]

10 January 1973 Johannesburg

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 little Andre (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)  [73-Tzaneen-Donrichea]

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  [73-Tzaneen-office]

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 Louis Trichard

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]

These 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.


Chevy pickup truck for work with Africasn Selection trust in the northern Transvaal












21 junio 1973 Alldays

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) (November 1973)











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 Bond, 2012)


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 rocks and stratiform mineral deposits, advising on prospects in the R.S.A., Mozambique, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola.

Publication: Stratiform copper and zinc mineralization in the Cretaceous of Angola: ECON. GEOL., v. 73, p. 1154-1161.


Continuation of the story: 1974 Angola





Recent work of Jan van Eden


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