This is the story of an Afrikaner boy who grew up in the Natal Midlands in South Africa during the years of World War II and for a few years thereafter. This was a German speaking community and due to the enmity caused by the invasion into German South West Africa in 1914 he and the other four Afrikaans speaking children at the school were bullied and assaulted by the big boys. He was the only one who fought back and his war against them ended only when he was in grade ten.
The refusal to be bullied by anyone was a characteristic which he had throughout his life and whi ch he adhered to especially in his career. During the years in which he was a prosecutor in both the district and regional courts and then later as magistrate in both the district and regional courts at various places throughout the country attempts were often made to bully him by even the head of the Department of Justice and the other most senior officials of the Department to assist them or not to try to thwart them in their various corrupt practices. He found that he was the only magistrate and on the Inspectorate of the Department the only inspector who did not comply with the demands.
This meant a career of tension and stress and a life which frequently taxed his emotional and mental abilities to the utmost. He had to face all of these incidents and tribulations alone, without even the support of his wife.
On a few occasions he uncovered the fact that Dr. Verwoerd and Mr. John Vorster were not the irreproachable men whose public images in spite of their politics were that they were indeed models of correctness. They were simply politicians whose main aim was to stay in power at all costs and whose real characters were not unblemished. His experiences with these people did not become public knowledge. Had this become known at the time it might have influenced the future of the country profoundly. Unfortunately the press at the time was either not interested in matters of this nature or was more probably intimidated to the extent that they could not dare to make these matters known.
In view of the fact that his own life was irreproachable and he invariably saw to it that he was correct in his conduct, the Department could not succeed in discharging him in spite of several attempts to do so. In this regard it has to be realised that no organization existed which could assist or protect any official against the arbitrary conduct of politicians and senior officials of departments.
The story of his life and career sounds like a work of fiction written by a writer of thrillers a thriller without shooting, murder and mayhem but a thriller on the mental and emotional level. Every statement in this book is the truth.
It will, I believe, shed a great deal of light on what happened behind the scenes.
I assumed duty on the departmental inspectorate on the 1st February 1967. As the name implies the function of the inspectorate was to inspect the offices of the department throughout the country and to evaluate the quality of the work being done by the officials. A single inspector (which was inadvisable) went on a “tour” for approximately three weeks at a time during which he had to inspect five offices, he then returned to Pretoria for about three weeks during which he wrote the reports on the offices and attended to any matters arising from previous inspections.
A magistrate could be appointed to the inspectorate only with the approval of the Public Service Commission and the appointment was for three years – that being the maximum which a normal person could tolerate. An inspector could be withdrawn from the inspectorate only with the written consent of the Commission and then only on the following grounds: ill health, incompetence or if his services were required for some other purpose for which no other person was suitable. This is important for reasons which will appear later. The inspectorate was regarded as being not part of head office nor of the magisterial division but was some sort of unidentified and unclassified species sui generis – not yet classified and catalogued but regarded with distaste by magistrates and a measure of distrust by some of the senior head office personnel.
To my surprise I found Jaap van Wyk there as a member of the inspectorate. He was my senior in age by fifteen years. Jaap and I went together on my first tour to inspect the offices at Dundee, Glencoe, Ladysmith, Dannhauser and Colenso.
The office at Dundee, a few miles from Glencoe was fully staffed but the quality of the work was shocking. The office at Glencoe, a most difficult office, was wholly understaffed. The posts consisted of the magistrate, prosecutor, switchboard operator, typist, two revenue clerks and interpreter. The four clerical posts were vacant and had been so for eighteen months. The department was fully aware of this and had failed to fill the vacancies – staff could not be obtained locally as the salaries were too inadequate.
The prosecutor had to prepare the cases for the court in the morning while the magistrate worked in the revenue and accounts department – as a clerk – he then went into court at nine o’clock, heard cases for an hour whereupon he and the prosecutor went to attend to the public for revenue and other matters. After an hour of this they went back to court for an hour. This was repeated throughout the day until late at night. This was the daily practice in order to cope to some extent with the work.
They were never able to leave the office before ten or eleven o’clock at night. The office was understandably not in a good condition but was in a far better condition than could have been expected in the circumstances.
In my confidential report on the office I pointed out the fact that the fault in this matter lay entirely with the Department and that the necessary staff should be transferred to the office immediately as it was not possible to recruit local people. The magistrate and prosecutor had done sterling work in impossible circumstances.
However, both the prosecutor and magistrate were transferred and both were reprimanded for not having done their duty. I spoke to the deputy head of the department about this as the action taken was grossly unfair. He said that they were disappointed with the magistrate as he belonged to one of the well known English language cultural/charity organisations and had appeared some time before in a concert to raise funds for charity. In this concert he and other leading members of the organisation and town had “modelled” female bikini swimwear as a humorous act. This was reported in a Sunday newspaper with a photograph of the men in the bikinis. The department, he said found this “not in the best interests of the department” and in bad taste. I pointed out to him that the magistrate was very highly regarded in the town and district; he was very capable, and scrupulously fair in his dealings with every person. This made no impression and the magistrate and prosecutor were from then on at a distinct disadvantage as far as promotion was concerned.
On inspecting the office at Dannhauser we found that the staff was adequate but this office was also in an unsatisfactory state. The overhead supervision and control were inefficient resulting in the staff doing very much as they pleased. The record of the evidence in cases tried was sketchy and obviously not a proper and full record. Attached to his telephone in his personal office was a recording machine. We wondered about this until a member of the public told us confidentially that we should interview the security police about the magistrate.
The security police at Ladysmith told us that they had been keeping an eye on him for a long time and furnished us with documents showing the following: (i) he sent disparaging and subversive tape recordings to various addresses in Britain and Europe (ii) he held meetings in the black residential areas at which he ostensibly preached the gospel as a lay preacher but in fact made frequent inflammatory political speeches (iii) and that while he did this his wife was outside the building in which the meeting was held, soliciting the men for sex.
The police told us that they had reported the matter to the Department. We furnished the Department with a full confidential report on this. This magistrate was transferred a year later on promotion. A further year later he was appointed as a regional court magistrate in Cape Town. Our attempts to have this matter clarified were met with the curt remark that it was none of our business.
In order to understand these and future events the following should also be made clear. On assuming duty as an inspector that person was clearly told that before going on any tour he had to study the confidential file of every staff member at the offices and in particular those of the senior staff members. Having done this he should then consult the Under Secretary of Personnel to be briefed on what the Department’s views on the staff members were. This official kept a number of large black books (the covers were in fact black) in which he made notes of any information, however trifling and however suspect the source might be of any information which came to his notice of any magistrate, prosecutor or clerk.
This initial tour with Jaap van Wyk was the only tour on which I ever did this. My doubts about the integrity of many of the senior officials at head office were aroused and I decided that I was not going to be influenced by them in my views on any matter. I told Jaap about this and he warned me to be careful saying that any single official was far too small and powerless to confront them.
The next tour, one where I was to work alone, included the office at Middelburg in the Transvaal. The chief magistrate was a qualified mechanical engineer who had decided that he preferred law and had joined the department – after he had gained a LLB degree through UNISA – I still am unable to understand why. He was like the by far greater majority of magistrates a hardworking, conscientious, dedicated and capable person.
At this office, in common with all the larger offices, the chief magistrate heard the civil cases, some of the most important and difficult criminal cases, and performed various other tasks while the greater majority of criminal cases were tried by an additional magistrate. On going through the criminal cases I found that alterations were frequently made on the charge sheets, usually as to the age of the accused persons. The altered ages of the accused persons in these cases indicated that they were juveniles. The original entry re the age was totally blanked out in every case. The prosecutors said that they knew nothing of it and I spoke to the police about it. The station commander said I should wait while he instructed someone to find some of the police dockets in some of those cases for me. A comparison revealed that in those cases where this had been done the ages of the accused, invariably black male farm workers, were actually between twenty and fifty years.
He said that the additional magistrate did this at the request of the farmers where the farmers were the complainants in cases against their workers for some offence or other, so that corporal punishment could be inflicted on them and they could return immediately to work, “properly disciplined and keen to work”. I asked him why they had not complained to the Department. He merely shrugged his shoulders.
I made photo static copies of the charge sheets and of the docket covers and attached these to my report on this magistrate. The head of the Department interviewed me about this and tried to make me admit that I had made a mistake. I was incensed and asked him to accompany me to Middelburg on the next morning when he could see for himself what that particular magistrate was doing. He naturally refused and asked me what I thought should be done to the magistrate. I told him that an enquiry should be held and the man should be discharged as unfit to be employed and that he should be prosecuted.
He was kept at Middelburg for another year and was then transferred on promotion to Pretoria so that his daughter could attend the University of Pretoria while she lived at home, her father therefore not having the extra expense of board and lodging for her. A clerk in the registry section later told me that the magistrate was the cousin of the Deputy Secretary of the Department. Shortly after my inspection of the office a merit committee visited that office to assess the quality of and suitability of that magistrate and other officials for promotion. Each merit committee consisted of three magistrates. Upon their meeting with all the other merit committees in Pretoria a few weeks later the three members interviewed me. They had found the same irregularities. I told them that I had already reported the matter to the department. They suggested that I try to retract the report as they were not going to report what they had found in view of the family relationship. I refused.
It was becoming clear to me that the Department of Justice and I were on a collision course.
Before this inspection tour the Department had decided that at the end of the tour I should investigate a problem in the Masters of the Supreme Court Division. I went on that investigation tour before the reports on Middelburg had been studied.
The Department was aware that the majority of officers in the Masters Division were very dissatisfied and felt that it was facing a possible mutiny but had no idea what the reason for the widespread discontent was. My assignment was to find out what the problem was. I had only a very sketchy layman’s idea of what that division’s function was and knew mainly only that it was chiefly concerned with the administration of estates; deceased and insolvent.
As cover for my investigation I was appointed a member of a merit committee that had to visit every officer who had to be assessed that year. The merit committee consisted of the head of the training section for assessors, a senior member of the master’s staff and I. The first office on this tour was that at Bloemfontein. It had been left to my discretion whether to take the other two members into my confidence as to the real reason for my being on the committee. I decided that I did not want to be fettered by their possible ideas as to causes and kept the reason to myself.
The head of the Department and his cousin the head of the Master of the Supreme Court’s Training Division, were members of the Broederbond as was the Deputy Secretary while the other senior officers were Free Masons.
This was a combination the significance of which was to become increasingly clear as the inner workings of the department became known to me.
At Cape Town the Master of the Supreme Court refused to hand the keys to the safe containing the confidential matters to me. In my capacity as inspector I not only had a right but a duty to examine these but on this tour to make doubly sure I was given a letter commanding the Masters to make these available to me on request. His refusal made me suspicious and I told him that if he refused I would telephone the Secretary from his office and would in any event not leave his office until I had the keys as I would not give him the opportunity to remove anything from the safe.
He handed the keys over. In the confidential file of an official on that staff I found a letter which he had written to an auctioneer. The letter was the most obsequious, deferential and apologetic one that I have ever read. This official had an altercation with the auctioneer about an antique little table on which his bid had been successful but of which the auctioneer tried to delay the handing over until the official was too impatient to wait and would walk off, leaving the table there as the auctioneer wanted to buy the table himself but obviously could not bid on it. The conversation between the auctioneer and his clerk, in which this was stated as the reason for the delay, was conducted in Yiddish.
The official was fluent in seven languages and could speak a further four very well – Hebrew being one of the latter and Yiddish one of the former. He had heard and understood the conversation to the effect set out above between the auctioneer and his clerk. When they finished their discussion he told them in Yiddish and then in Hebrew (which he said they probably did not understand), what he thought of them. The auctioneer had then written a letter to the Master of the Supreme Court in which he complained about the officer. The Master of the Supreme Court had there upon written a letter of apology to the auctioneer without discussing the matter with the officer. He had thereafter written annual reports on this officer in which he stated that the officer’s work was below standard and that he was not promotable.
As a result of this the merit committee always under the leadership of the head of training, for four years found that this officer was not fit for promotion. By this time I had a fairly good idea what that division’s work was about and made an independent assessment of his capabilities. I found that he was in fact a most diligent and capable officer who was in such great demand by professional executors of deceased and insolvent estates that he would have had to work twenty four hours every day and still would not have been able to cope with the work.
The injustices of the past were set aright and a few years later this officer had risen through the ranks to become the Chief Master of the Supreme Court of South Africa.
After this tour I attended and completed a course on organisation and method or work study – the name has undergone changes and may now be known by some other name. I thought that an inspector could not effectively carry out his work unless he had a good knowledge of this branch. This course was completed and passed in December 1967.
By the time that I completed this course the head and the three other most senior men in the Department had studied the report on the Master’s Division thoroughly. Two weeks before Christmas 1967 I was told that I and the head of the inspectorate had to inspect five offices in the North East Cape. The long and lone battles which I had waged all my life bred a sixth sense for trouble and I knew that this was a tour which had as object the finding of grounds to lay before the Public Service Commission to remove me from the inspectorate. The head of the inspectorate at the time was Lourens de Kock who I met for the first time when he was appointed to this post. He was a Broederbonder.
He worked with me on inspecting the first three offices and although he tried to do so surreptitiously, it was clear that he was watching me like a hawk. On the last day that we were inspecting the third office he told me that he had arranged with the chief magistrate of that office that I would give a lecture to his staff on that morning on an involved and difficult aspect of the work relating to Native Affairs Administration. I merely said that I would do so and did not complain that I had not been given time to prepare the lecture. Native Affairs Administration was understandably the most involved and difficult part of the administrative work done by the department.
At nine o’clock that morning I delivered the lecture. De Kock made notes while I spoke and after the lecture which lasted for about three and a half hours he was closeted with the magistrate in his office for a long time. This magistrate was a very pleasant person and was appointed to this post about two months previously from South West Africa to where he had been seconded. I still have a large piece of blue quartz rock which he gave to me. Some years later we were in touch with each other again in what for me was both an amusing and very risky undertaking but which annoyed him, understandably, tremendously – but more of that later.
One of the offices which we inspected, the second on the tour, was in such a poor condition that it can only be described as having for all practical purposes ceased to function. Correspondence was unanswered and was crammed into every nook and cranny. The magistrate’s personal office could literally hardly be entered because correspondence lay on the floor, peeled out of every drawer and cupboard and the law books were under the table on the floor to make way for unanswered letters which were crammed into the book cases. The typist/correspondence clerk told me that she and the rest of the staff were prohibited from dealing with any correspondence.
The cash and accounting books and ledgers and journals had not been checked for eighteen months, no returns had been submitted for the same period. All the rest of the work was in an equally bad state. We checked the financial matters of the office very thoroughly and were surprised to find that the clerks had religiously banked every cent which had been collected in respect of the multitude of matters which offices handled. In the circumstances this was to the unbounded credit of the staff that had to work with a magistrate who was in my view mentally deranged. This magistrate was quite unfit to be employed but was fined twenty five rand (departmentally) and transferred as additional magistrate to a larger place.
The last office on that tour was at Komgha – de Kock’s home town where his widowed mother still lived. He stayed with her while I inspected the last two offices on my own. I finished the inspection of the office at Komgha at eleven o’clock at night on the 23rd December. After driving from house to house where there was a party on I eventually traced him. As we left he took two unopened bottles of brandy from a table and told the host that he was taking them “for the road”. He was by then fairly intoxicated.
When I filled the car with petrol at a garage I bought a few bottles of soft drink, cans were not available. As I drove, de Kock drank brandy from one of the bottles and by the time we reached Reddersburg had finished it. I needed a bottle opener to open the bottles and stopped at the hotel as there was a very late party in progress. The manager and barman were very friendly but had no openers. De Kock and the manager were big men; de Kock was in his drunken state aggressive and became abusive to the manager, threatening to assault him. The manager told his wife to call the police. I spoke to her and assured her that I would take de Kock away. The manager intervened and said that he would give me two minutes to have de Kock off the premises and that if by then he was still there he would hammer him and hand him over to the police. I managed to get de Kock into the car – with considerable difficulty.
Several miles beyond Bloemfontein, de Kock with only half of the second bottle of brandy still unfinished insisted that we stop and braai meat and wors which he had. We stopped under some thorn trees – he even had charcoal – and while I, tired to death, braaied the meat and wors, he hung onto a thorn branch and wondered what was sticking like pins into his hand. I did not tell him that he had grabbed the branch by the thorns as I was enjoying that bit of drunken stupidity.
Early in 1968 the central merit committee met at head office in Pretoria. To the disgust of the Department’s senior officers de Kock instead of finding grounds for the Department to claim that I was incompetent as an inspector, brought out a report that I was of exceptional ability and proposed that I be accorded the highest possible marks and be given early promotion for that reason. The department refused to do this.
The Department was still determined to have me removed from the inspectorate and the Under Secretary Personnel, seemingly very friendly and pretending that the Department was showing its confidence and trust in me, asked me to accept a transfer to Gobabis in South West Africa. He said that the magistrate there was granting Agricultural Credit Loans to farmers who did not qualify therefore and was doing his best to obtain other privileges for them in return for unlimited hunting rights on their farms and that I should go and teach the farmers there what honest administration was.
I told him that I would consider the matter and give him my answer the following day. I wrote a letter stating that I would go to Gobabis to set the matters (which I enumerated) right on condition that I had the written assurance and guarantee from the Department that it would stand by me in setting the matters right and that I would not be left in the lurch by it when the farmers complained, as they inevitably would complain, and demanded my transfer. I pointed out that I was convinced that unless these guarantees and assurances were given in writing the Department would when the bubble burst allege that I was to blame for the problems that would surely then arise.
I did not receive a reply to my letter and was not transferred to Gobabis – which could only have taken place with the consent of the Public Service Commission. It has to be borne in mind that no organisation existed which protected the interests of government employees – they were entirely at the mercy of the senior officials of departments. The “protection” of departmental inspectors existed only because the appointments and termination of service on the inspectorate before the lapse of the three years period needed the approval in writing of the Commission.
To illustrate this point the following will suffice. Firearms licences were issued by magistrate’s offices. The police eventually managed to persuade the cabinet to transfer this function to the police. As a recompense for the loss of this function the Deeds Registry Division which registered the deeds to fixed property was transferred to the Department of Justice while it should from a functional point of view have been with the Department of Agricultural Credit and Land Tenure where it in fact had always been.
The officers of that division had been permitted to and did dress in safari suits when on duty for many years. Oberholzer the Secretary for Justice instructed that this cease and that they come to work in suits with ties. They were very unhappy about being in the Department of Justice which was unpopular with most of the rest of the government departments due to the conceited and overbearing manner of its senior officers. Two of the officers in token of their dissatisfaction refused to dress in suits and went to work as usual in safari suits. They were summarily dismissed. Neither the Commission nor any other body tried to rectify this injustice. Oberholzer was also a Broederbonder.
As from the beginning of 1968 I began to inspect and evaluate the quality of the clerical and administrative work in offices by applying the principles of Organisation and Method. In addition to this I applied the principles in assessing what amount of time was spent by clerks, control magistrates and magistrates in checking work involving the various aspects thereof individually. The results were astounding. Before these matters are explained the following should be noted:
The main reason given for the requirement that inspectors interview the Under Secretary for Personnel before going on any tour was that the inspector would be acquainted with the history and background of every official at the offices to be inspected. It soon became clear that the real reason was that the Department had its favourites at various offices, the senior officials often had relatives in these offices and the members of the Broederbond and Free Masons wanted to make sure that the members of these organisations were protected.
Inspectors therefore meekly followed these guidelines and avoided any unpleasant consequences for themselves. The greater majority of personnel were for obvious reasons not within the categories of favourites, relatives or members of the two organisations. This “unprotected majority” was completely at the arbitrary mercy of the inspectors and the senior officials of the department while the “protected minority” received preferential treatment.
A custom which probably existed since the first inspectors were appointed was for any inspector after finding two or three errors in any work to mark it simply as having occurred seldom, sometimes or frequently irrespective of how often the error did in fact occur. This gave the Department the discretion to evaluate any officer and office as it saw fit.
I do not know of a single instance where any other inspector had handed in a report that a relative or friend of a senior official of head office or a member of one of the two secret organisations was ever found to have performed his tasks unsatisfactorily. Officials not so favourably blessed were on the other hand frequently found to be unsatisfactory. This had a very difficult sequel for an inspector and head office in one instance. An inspector had reported that the work and therefore the office of a magistrate was most unsatisfactory – using the system of finding one or two minor errors and then stating that errors in every respect occurred frequently.
The magistrate waited until he had the department’s letter informing him that his office was in a most unsatisfactory state and that this had been noted on his file. He sent all the books to the department and requested it and the inspector to point out more than two very minor errors. It was quite clear that the books had not been falsified after the inspection and neither the inspector nor the department could explain what had happened. Similar reports were dealt with in much the same way by other magistrates. This did not persuade the department to adopt a better method of inspection.
In applying the principles relating to “organisation and method” stated above this hit and miss method did not exist and a very accurate finding as to the quality of any work done could be made without any individual, subjective or opportunistic element being involved.
At the same time I was able to evaluate the time spent on valueless and unnecessary work. After six months and having inspected many offices throughout the country I was able to put before the Department two memoranda – one setting out in detail the methods which I employed in evaluating the quality of work done and the other explaining in depth that I had found that if certain quite unnecessary and valueless tasks were abolished a third of the clerical and administrative posts could be abolished with no detrimental effect whatsoever and at a considerable saving to the taxpayer.
The Department’s reply to both memoranda was to issue an instruction that in future no inspector would be permitted to attend an Organisation and Method course and any magistrate who had attended such a course would not be eligible for appointment as an inspector. In every magistrate’s office throughout the country magistrates were encumbered to such an extent with absolutely meaningless work that their primary function, the trial of cases, was to a greater or lesser extent neglected.
The Treasury had many years ago issued instructions with which all government departments had to comply. These instructions were designed for and were very effective in preventing the theft of public monies and in the rare cases where this did take place to establish such thefts very quickly. The Department of Justice had issued a large number of additional instructions in this regard. These instructions did not improve on those of the Treasury but merely confused the matter beyond recognition and in fact made it very difficult to trace any theft. Compliance with these instructions was time consuming and took up a great deal of the magistrates and control officers time.
In using the work study techniques I was able to show that the departmental instructions were of no benefit whatsoever. The department was annoyed when I submitted my report. The errors, consisting mainly of numerous initials by various officials in all sorts of records and the visible proof next to those initials that the making of the initials had been checked consumed so much time that the time left to expend on the primary and most important tasks of the officials was very seriously curtailed. The degree of the presence or absence of all these initials enabled the department (on the basis of an inspector’s report) to decide whether an official was ‘below, on or above satisfactory standard’. Using the technique of stating that the errors occurred ‘seldom, sometimes, often or very often’ the inspectors having first of all ascertained what the department’s opinion of an officer was, wrote a report which confirmed the prior opinion of the department on an officer. The quality of the primary tasks as performed and the quality of the general work performance of the office was of very little importance.
During 1968 I had to assist the police to investigate a theft of some money at an East Rand town. On the second morning of this investigation a woman interviewed me and asked me whether I was able to look into other matters. She told me that one of the magistrates lived in the same street as she did and that the magistrate and his wife became intoxicated on several evenings per week. In this condition they would undress and then stark naked, shout, scream and swear at each other and at the height of the argument, chase each other up and down the street. She said that both were rather obese and this made the exhibition even more repugnant. At my request she brought several affidavits to this effect to me the following morning.
The magistrate’s wife worked at the office as a temporary clerk, both were very overweight and having heard this complaint I could well imagine that the “comedy act” was not improved by the sight of two disgraceful clowns acting like hooligans.
On handing the statements to the Deputy Secretary Personnel he remarked that I had managed to put my foot into it again and said the woman was the sister the Under Secretary Personnel. A few months later after a number of other unsavoury matters had been uncovered I was called to his office where he told me that I was making a lot of trouble for myself which I could avoid if I were a bit more amenable to suggestions. The magistrate was transferred to Cape Town (a very popular place with officials) and promoted two months later.
A short while later I and another inspector were told to inspect an office on the West Rand. While we were inspecting this office it appeared that a prosecutor and several other persons were operating a brothel in a hotel. We were in the middle of investigating this aspect when on the afternoon of the second day I was told that I should no longer assist with that inspection or investigation. The facts were that the senior prosecutor, several senior police officers and a hotel manager had established a brothel at the hotel. A woman had gone into the hotel lounge and while she was waiting there she was approached to join the brothel. She refused and was forcibly dragged to the first floor where she was raped. She laid a complaint at the police station but the police officers closed the docket as “a false complaint”.
The senior prosecutor was the nephew of the head of the department. No steps were taken in the matter and the senior prosecutor was transferred to the attorney-general’s office.
During the winter of 1968 I inspected several offices in Northern Natal. The magistrate at one of these offices was one of the most disreputable persons that I have ever met. The only woman on the staff was the typist/correspondence clerk. She was a beautiful girl of about twenty years of age. The assistant magistrate was married and on the staff were four young unmarried men.
I sensed that the relations between the staff members were strained and decided to look into the matter carefully as on the face of it there should not have been any real friction. I became more suspicious when within the first few minutes of my being in the office the magistrate and assistant magistrate were excessively friendly.
In a cupboard with pigeon holes containing blank forms I found a large number of completed staff reports hidden under forms. The reports were without exception most derogatory and made it clear that the officials to whom they referred were incompetent and inefficient. On comparing the reports with those on their personal files I found that the reports there were most favourable and that the officials were stated to be models of what officials should be.
On questioning the typist she burst into tears and told me that the assistant magistrate insisted that she have regular sexual intercourse with him and that as soon as she had sexual intercourse with the other four clerks he became jealous and wrote unsatisfactory reports about her and the four young men.
She had a boy friend and she complained that she was finding it difficult to keep six men happy. The assistant magistrate’s demands because of his extortionate methods were a great burden to bear. She was quite serious and there was no doubt that she was truthful. I asked her what the position was concerning the magistrate. She was furious and said that she hated him and would under no circumstances have sex with him. He, she said, knew about the others and one morning while he and she were opening the post – he was seated and she stood at the desk – he put his hand under her dress whereupon she slapped him dragging her nails across his face. This was mainly to get some revenge for his regular remarks in the office tea room when members of the public were invited to join them when the magistrate used the opportunity to ask her in every body’s presence whether the assistant magistrate had “screwed her so much the night before that she was walking bow-legged”.
The magistrate’s court work was shocking; the record which he kept of the evidence was incomprehensible and contained almost no record of the evidence. Many members of the public complained that he swore at them in court.
My report on this office was not believed in spite of the fact that I appended the originals of all the relevant staff reports. The magistrate and assistant magistrate denied the allegations, the Department was only too willing to accept what they said in spite of the documentary proof which I furnished and de Kock (the head of the inspectorate) and another inspector were sent to investigate the matter. They confirmed every statement which I had made.
Both the magistrate and assistant magistrate were transferred to Durban. A few years later the assistant magistrate was appointed a regional magistrate. The female clerk was discharged on twenty four hours notice. She was on the permanent staff and could have been transferred as had the magistrate and assistant magistrate.
This particular magistrate was, as I have said, a most disreputable person who should not have been employed in any capacity in the civil service. A few years before he was transferred to this town near the Drakensberg he was the Special Justice of the Peace at Magudu in Zululand. He was a very heavy drinker and on a Sunday night while he and a drinking companion were drinking as usual far too much they decided that they wanted to have a braai. They had no meat and there was no place where they could buy meat. He kept a milk cow which was then in the stall. They killed it, strung it sideways along on the manger and cut a piece of meat off the rump leaving the rest of the carcase there. (Without the carcase having been skinned)
On the Monday morning when the gardener arrived and found the carcase there he was severely assaulted on reporting this to the magistrate.
The Department was aware of this and other examples of his despicable behaviour.
At Durban the chief magistrate was English speaking while the deputy chief magistrate was Afrikaans speaking. The magistrate told the deputy chief magistrate that I was merely victimising him and the assistant as they were Afrikaners and I was a “bloody Rooinek!” The deputy chief magistrate (probably because the chief magistrate was English speaking) wrote a private letter to the head of the Department in which he said that he was convinced that I was merely being racist as they were Afrikaners and reminded the head of the department about the many years that the Afrikaners had suffered at the hands of the ‘English’ in the government service and promotion had been denied them.
There was much in similar vein; a lot of it being of a most defamatory nature against me. When the head of the Department showed the letter to me, I demanded a photo static copy and an investigation into the allegations. This was refused. I told him that I wanted to sue the deputy chief magistrate at Durban for defamation but he refused to let me have the letter or a copy thereof.
During the winter of 1969 I had to inspect the office at Howick. I had inspected the office during the winter of 1968. By 1969 plans to build the Midmar dam and build a township in the catchment area of the proposed dam were well under way by the Departments of Water Affairs and Native Affairs. Two farmers whose farms had been in their families for several generations and whose farms had been expropriated had committed suicide.
Numerous protests which had been submitted to the authorities were simply ignored; especially those which pointed out that any township which was erected in the catchment area must inevitably raise a serious health hazard. In my report on the office in 1968 I had brought these matters to the attention of the Department as the magistrate at Howick was also the Native Affairs Commissioner and thus responsible for the administration of Native Affairs.
When I inspected the office in 1969 a police officer who I knew well told me to have a close look at the material for the proposed township and said that I would have to do the investigation at night. He refused to accompany me at night, saying that it was too dangerous. I spoke to the magistrate who said that he was not going to commit suicide by going there at night.
I went to the area during the day to acquaint myself with the layout and nature of the area. There was an area of several hectares which was covered with building material of everything needed to build houses. The value of all the material must have amounted to many millions rand.
The magistrate was supposed to control and oversee the off loading and receipt of the goods. This was clearly impossible, he could not be on the scene except for very short periods – the area was several kilometres from his office – he did not have the staff to whom the work could be delegated and whatever happened to the material was quite out of his control. There was therefore no record of what had been off loaded at the area or of any material that might have been removed.
At between nine and ten o’clock at night I returned to the place. There were six or seven twenty five to thirty ton lorries, all of them Native Affairs lorries, being loaded with building material of all descriptions. Other lorries kept on arriving. I demanded to see their papers authorising them to load and transport the goods. The drivers told me to leave or I would simply disappear. I made notes of some of the material that was loaded onto the trucks and their registration numbers. I could not find out where the goods were being taken to. The material was simply loaded onto the trucks without any documentation to authorise the conveyance or transfer thereof to another place. The men who were engaged in this became increasingly aggressive and hostile due my insistence on seeing their authorisation.
At this “depot” were millions of rands worth of building material with not a single person in charge of the goods, no record being kept of what was delivered there and no record of what was being removed or whereto. Thousands of bags of cement were stacked out in the open with no protection against the weather. There were no security officers on duty to protect the goods.
I submitted a full report on the matter. Without consulting me or informing me that my report was not believed the Department sent the then head of the Inspectorate, a Thompson, to investigate the matter. His report was shown to me confidentially by a clerk in the registry section of the head office. In this report he stated that every allegation which I had made was completely false, that the police officer (a captain) was a liar and that the magistrate was incompetent. He had, according to his report, contacted another magistrate who had undertaken to control everything connected with the building material and who was quite confident that he could and would do so.
The magistrate at Howick was transferred and he was informed that his promotion was prejudiced by his conduct. Significantly I was at no time informed or consulted by the department about any of these steps and events. About nine months later the police officer (a captain) wrote to me that all the material was being removed. For some reason the plan to build a township there had been abandoned. The questions which arose from all these events are still shrouded in secrecy.
The Department opened a magistrate’s office at Pongola in Zululand near the border with Swaziland. This is the area in which I had been offered a sugar cane farm in 1951. The magistrate was a young very capable and hardworking official, Mr. de Bod, a member of the Broederbond. Starting an office is always a most difficult task and a year after the office was opened I had to inspect it. As usual the magistrate was also the Commissioner for Native Affairs. The office was in a very good condition and it was clear that the magistrate and his staff had worked very hard.
A few miles from the municipal borders the Department of Native Affairs had “established” a black township. This type of “establishment” was most unsatisfactory. The people were allotted an area in which houses could be built but no assistance of any nature whatever was provided. No local authority was established, no control over any matter relating to communal living was provided; nothing was done about sanitation or water or any services at all. There was no planning and therefore no allocation of residential sites. Anyone who wanted to build a house did so where he wanted without regard to any access roads or any other matter whatsoever. Stands were marked out haphazardly and as large or small as the “owner” desired.
I walked through the “township” where many people had erected dwellings of some sort – usually mud and anything else that could be used. I found two cemeteries. The area was still densely overgrown with bush, grass and trees and was difficult to traverse. The “streets” were tracks made by occasional vehicles and pedestrians.
There were two cemeteries. I found one shop and the owner told me that he had established one of the cemeteries and kept a record of the burials which had taken place therein. There was no control over the other cemetery and whoever wanted to bury a corpse simply dug a grave there and buried whoever had to be buried. With regard to the cemetery controlled by the shop keeper there were also no death certificates and the shop owner merely noted in his book the name, sex and age of the deceased and the cause of death as given by the persons who “registered” the death and burial with him. I called a meeting of the residents and suggested that they elect some kind of body to oversee matters of common interest. The shopkeeper had tried to impose some sort of order in the township by allocating stands and seeing to it that they were sited so as to make possible the laying out of streets and so forth. A number of people had obeyed him but large numbers simply ignored him and marked out their stands as haphazardly as they saw fit.
The number of deaths judging by the graves in the two cemeteries appeared to me to be out of proportion in relation to the number of inhabitants and the short period that the “township” had existed. The water for the residents for all purposes was obtained from the nearby Pongola River which was the border between South Africa and Swaziland. I walked along its course for a few miles and found that because of a drought that it was stagnant with evil looking and smelling water in pools here and there. At my request the Department of Health in Pietermaritzburg sent someone to analyse the water and it was found to be polluted with amongst others cholera bacteria. It seemed probable that many of the deaths had been due to this.
I spoke to the local engineer in charge of the Department of Water Affairs who agreed to supply the township with clean water in tankers on a daily basis until the Department of Native Affairs could rectify matters there. I telephoned the Department of Native Affairs in Pretoria and asked them to send a team to Pongola to look into the problems which existed there and as a matter of urgency to attend to the supply of clean water to the township. Only after a great deal of trouble and many threats was I able to persuade them to do so.
This was another instance of the magistrate being required to attend to matters for which he had neither the time nor the staff nor the experience and ability. Much of the work of the Department of Native Affairs required specialised knowledge allied to a desire to see to the interests of the black people.
The staff at Pongola had to work in extremely unhealthy circumstances. The building was of a mainly corrugated iron structure with poor ventilation and of course no air conditioning. Heat and humidity were very high and they had to wear suits and ties. In a separate report in which I outlined these factors and dealt with an American study which showed that productivity could be as low as forty percent of normal in such conditions, I suggested that they be permitted to wear safari suits.
The head of the Department called me to his office and waving my report in the air told me that if ever I submitted a report suggesting this again he would have me tried departmentally for insubordination.
Relate this and his attitude to the officials at Deeds Registry to his attitude towards exceedingly grave derelictions of duty which I outlined previously and the following incident. I was not involved in this matter but the inspector who was told me about it a few days after this incident.
A magistrate who was on the relief staff was a very heavy drinker relieved the magistrate at a large and busy office within a couple of hours drive from Pretoria. He, at every office where he worked, cleared a space in some room where he slept. His appearance was usually unkempt. During his first week at the office he had to go to a periodical court to try cases. He took the prosecutor with him – at periodical courts the local police sergeant was always the prosecutor. On arrival there all the cases were either withdrawn or struck off the roll.
The sergeant in charge of the police station telephoned the Department of Justice and complained about this. An inspector was immediately sent to the periodical court centre. There the inspector found the magistrate and prosecutor in the local hotel bar, intoxicated and steadily becoming more so. On this being reported the head of the department merely reprimanded both the magistrate and prosecutor. Nothing else was done and the incident was not noted on their personal files.
A few months later I had to inspect the office at Verulam. The district there had been declared an Indian area in terms of the Group Areas Act. The white staff could not live in Verulam as this would have been a contravention of the Group Areas Act. The State therefore supplied the white staff with accommodation at Umhlanga Rocks – a very popular holiday resort – and a mini bus with which to drive to the office and back to Umhlanga Rocks every day.
Except for a few clerks the staff was all white – not a single senior post was held by an Indian person. On my return to Pretoria I discussed this with H. Thompson who had succeeded de Kock as head of the inspectorate and the Under Secretary Personnel, J. Marais who had succeeded J. Prins (of subsequent Steve Biko notoriety re the inquest proceedings which he conducted).
No provision existed in any legislation or rules to permit the appointment of Indians to posts of magistrate or prosecutor in “Indian areas”. I pointed out the utter imbecility and hypocrisy of this and suggested that I be allowed to submit an organisational report in which the provision of such posts was recommended and that the Public Service Commission be approached for the creation of these posts and that the white personnel should be withdrawn from Verulam. They agreed to this. I submitted the report; it was filed and without any further discussion with me another inspector who had shown himself to be far more amenable to the Department’s wishes was instructed to prepare the conventional functional report. The staff position at Verulam remained as it had been.
Numerous cases of a similar nature can be given but the following will illustrate the position adequately. The town Kuruman was part of the Republic of South Africa but the offices of the Native Affairs Administration which were just beyond the municipal borders were in the Bophuthatswana Republic when this homeland was established and declared “independent”. The white officials who were then “seconded” to this homeland continued to live in Kuruman and continued to travel the short distance to these offices to work. The black staff, without exception, in junior and subordinate positions in the office continued to live in the black township and continued to work in the office as before. However because the offices were now in a “foreign country” the white staff received handsome foreign allowances on this ground which more than doubled their monthly income. Naturally the black staff received no additional allowances. This was the case in numerous places throughout the country.
I discussed this with the head of the Department whose only comment was that this was one of the few ways in which staff was able to obtain extra income. The fact that this arrangement at many places placed a wholly artificial burden on the taxpayer was of no importance. It must be borne in mind that there were no border posts between the Republic of South Africa and the ‘independent homelands” except for the Transkei.
On inspecting an office in Northern Natal towards the end of 1968 I found the magistrate had sentenced a black youngster of fourteen years of age to a whipping of six strokes for irrigating his father’s vegetable fields at incorrect times. The sentence had naturally been carried out. I read the record and instead of proving that the youngster had committed the offence the evidence showed conclusively that he had irrigated the fields at the correct times and using the allotted amount of water. A white farmer who could not tolerate a black farmer had given evidence which in view of the documentary and other evidence was clearly perjured. I discussed the matter with the magistrate who could not explain how he had come to his decision.
I instructed him to prepare the necessary documents to send the matter to the supreme court for review and to have the case record available on the following day and that I would personally send the matter to the supreme court. On the next day the case record had disappeared. The magistrate had clearly, and there could be no doubt about this, destroyed the record. With the help of the police I reconstructed the evidence and sent the matter for review. The verdict and sentence were set aside. The sentence had been carried out and I recommended that the youngster and his father be adequately compensated. The Supreme Court set the verdict and sentence aside and dealt scathingly with the magistrate. I do not know whether the youngster and his father were compensated. I filed a full report on the matter which should have been filed with the magistrate’s personal file at head office.
Early in 1969 I and the other inspectors had to attend a central merit committee meeting. This magistrate was one of those who were being evaluated. The department recommended him for early promotion (that is three to four years before he would normally be promoted if his work had been satisfactory) on the grounds that he was exceptionally capable as a magistrate. The incident relating to the fourteen year old youngster was not on his file. I informed the committee fully on the matter and he was found to be of below acceptable standard and therefore could not be promoted even after the lapse of the normal time.
I asked the head office personnel who were at the meeting why his file did not contain my report. The question was ignored. One of the magistrates who was on the committee later told me that that magistrate was a Broederbonder.
During the early summer of 1968 I inspected the office at Bothaville in the Free State. The office was in a mess and the criminal court work was shockingly bad. It was clear that the majority of criminal cases were not heard at all. At least sixty percent of the case records simply bore the remark “withdrawn by the prosecutor”, in the other cases a few incoherent words were recorded and of these at least ninety percent were acquittals.
On being questioned about this the prosecutor burst out crying and said that the magistrate had compelled him to withdraw most of the cases and in the majority of the other cases not to lead any evidence.
I interviewed the Station Commander of the local police who said that the magistrate was entirely responsible for this state of affairs but he could not explain why the police had not complained about this.
I asked him where the magistrate’s farm was. He was surprised and wanted to know why I thought that the magistrate farmed. I told him that the old official residence was no longer occupied but that the stand which was about two acres in extent was used as a parking lot for farming equipment and that the numbers and types of machinery indicated farming on a large scale. He gave me the directions reluctantly. The next morning the magistrate told me that he would be absent from the office as from nine o’clock as he was going on agricultural credit inspections with the other members of the Agricultural Credit Committee. He left. I had already had a look at his official diary and knew that he was lying. At half past ten I drove in the direction where I had been told his farm was. About ten miles from the town I found him ploughing a large field in order to plant groundnuts. He was not in the least embarrassed and invited me to his home that evening when he would explain everything.
That evening he told me that during the depression years both he and the Secretary for Justice, Oberholzer, could not find employment although both had first class matric passes. For several years they worked on the railways in Pretoria polishing the brass on the steam locomotives and oiling some moving parts at five shillings a day. He smiled and said that Oberholzer would accept my report on him and his office but he would not take any steps against him. He asked me whether I thought that Oberholzer would do anything to him after a friendship of a lifetime in those circumstances.
On reading my report Oberholzer called me to his office and asked me what I thought should be done. I said that the man was unfit to be a magistrate; he was in fact a disgrace and should be discharged. He was quiet for a while and said precisely what Muller the magistrate had said he would, adding only that they would leave him at Bothaville until the mealies and groundnuts had been harvested. He was transferred on promotion a year later.
I had to inspect the office at Zastron in the Free State during 1969. The Deputy Secretary told me that the Department had information that the magistrate was in conflict with the police there and I was to tell him that if this did not stop “the Department would break him”. I again said that I would come to a conclusion about what the position was once I had inspected the office and that I could not be influenced by rumours.
Due to the previously mentioned poor salaries only married women who had to augment their husbands’ incomes were obtainable in the rural areas as clerks in the offices. Two of the women employed at Zastron were the wives of two police sergeants – one being the station commander and the other the prosecutor. It was the practice for the police to designate a policeman as prosecutor at those offices where not many criminal cases were tried.
These two women vied with each other about the status of their husbands – and consequently for their own status. The one alleged that a prosecutor had a higher standing than a station commander and the other contending the opposite. This was no friendly leg-pulling but a serious cat fight which caused a tremendous amount of friction in both the office and police station. The magistrate, dependant on the services of the women in the office did a remarkable job in keeping some sort of peace and preventing the women and their husbands from literally being at each others’ throats.
Had it not been for his diplomacy unpleasant and even dangerous situations could easily have risen. In my report I made these matters clear and recommended that the Department in a confidential letter thank and congratulate him on his efforts and assist in the solution of a very unhealthy state of affairs by appointing permanent clerks at the office. This was not done.
The magistrate at Ottosdal in the Western Transvaal ran the office with his wife and an interpreter clerk as the only staff. There were three vacant clerical posts which could not be filled as there was no one willing to work for the paltry wages. His office was nevertheless in an excellent condition. I could not believe this in the circumstances and thought that I must have overlooked many discrepancies and remained there for a further three days and re did the full inspection. I could still not find a single mistake; not even one made in the department’s ridiculous requirements of meaningless initials and proof of checking these.
At the central merit committee meeting that year I and the other inspectors were present to brief the committee on the condition of any office at which the candidates had worked. I fully expected that this magistrate would be marked as well above average in ability for the remarkable achievement. He was marked as being merely average on every point.
I insisted on being allowed to put his case fully before the committee and when this was allowed managed to have him marked as well above average on every qualification except that of productivity – it was clear that for some personal reason or other the senior head office members of the committee were not going to have him marked as above average – which was attainable only if an officer were so marked on every one of the five qualities.”
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