Ranked as the richest copper mine in the world during the 1870s, O’Kiep has delivered a rich find to the Garden Route District Municipality Council in the form of Advocate Gert Johannes van Niekerk, the district’s new Deputy Executive Mayor.
Born in Springbok and raised in O’Kiep, Deputy Mayor van Niekerk is the oldest of four children. His father not only worked the mines, but farmed part-time. He attended school in the neighbouring mining town of Nababeep (which means ‘rhinoceros place’ in the indigenous Khoekhoen language). He joined the South African Police Force after school and was later commissioned as an officer to the South African Defence Force Military Police in 1980.
“I became involved with the training of national key point personnel during 1982 and wrote the first training module for security officers in the national key point industry,” said van Niekerk. “Based at the Uranium Enrichment Corporation in Pelindaba, I obtained tertiary qualifications in security management and law enforcement from Unisa.”
Van Niekerk was then recruited by the South African Reserve Bank to establish their security environment in line with the National Key Point Act and was transferred to Cape Town in 1987. He obtained his NOSA SAMTRAC certificate in loss control during this time, as well as his NOSA IT IS instructor certificate. “I also became actively involved in formulating an emergency disaster plan for the city of Cape Town and was the first recipient of a Mayoral Award from the then Mayor of Cape Town, Peter Miller, for the evacuation of high rise buildings in all emergency situations.”
He completed his labour relations studies at the Rand Afrikaanse University in the 90’s and Golden Arrow Bus Services, the largest bus industry in Africa at the time, appointed him as Risk Manager. Van Niekerk studied personnel management at the then Cape Technicon during this time and was the commanding officer of the Citizen Force Company of the military police in Wynberg, playing a pivotal role in the transformation period of the South African Defence Force when it became the South African National Defence Force.
“I re-joined the SANDF permanent force in 1997 and was trained as a cultural diversity instructor by the United States Defence Equal Opportunity Management Institute,” he said. “I travelled throughout South Africa as part of a task team addressing cultural diversity amongst all ranks within the military.”
Van Niekerk completed the Staff Officers course in 2000, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was appointed Officer Commanding of the Specialist Crime Investigating Unit within the Military Police, based in Potchefstroom. “I received several achievements and medals during my military career,” he said. “And I am grateful for the valuable experience. It eventually became clear that I would have to make way for equality representation due to the affirmative action policy applied by the military and so I enrolled for an after-hours LLB degree at North-West University.”
He completed this degree within four years and, based on academic achievements alone, was invited to join the Golden Key International Honour Society. Van Niekerk was admitted as an advocate to the High Court of South Africa on 16 May 2005 and joined the Pretoria Bar. During his successful career as an advocate he was exposed to several cases where the rights of minority communities within our country were not only neglected, but in some instances severely prejudiced. This eventually led him to enter the political arena. After studying the constitutions of various political parties – especially regarding the protection of minority communities – he decided to remain a member of the Freedom Front Plus. “I joined the FFP in 1994 as they were the only political party explicitly addressing the rights of minority groups in our country. Now I am the deputy leader of the FFP in the Western Cape and serve on the FFP legal committee at national level.”
The van Niekerks moved to George in 2015, having enjoyed several holidays here, and he took the opportunity to be actively involved in politics, especially acting in the best interest of George and the people of George. “While we love spoiling our grandchildren who live in Pretoria and Cape Town, my wife Petro and I truly love George and its beautiful people,” he said. “It is a great privilege to be at the service of this city and all its residents.”