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Abraham Kotze


UPDATE: 09/12/2021

9 DECEMBER 1957, Harry Oppenheimer becomes Chairman of the De Beers Board. 
9 DECEMBER 1977, Abraham Kotze dies in a veld fire attempting to save a fellow firefighter. 

Extraordinary courage by Awie Kotze

The Chamber of Mines’ Bronze Medal – the Miner’s Victoria Cross – was awarded to Abraham Erasmus “Awie” Kotze (pictured) on 22 March 1978 by the President of the Chamber of Mines, Mr Lynne Wilson Pearson van den Bosch.PT-Abraham_Kotze-Bravery_Certificate-1977

Although awarded posthumously, it was the first time in the medal’s history that it had been presented to an individual for a deed that did not happen underground nor in a mining capacity. Awie’s action in attempting to save the life of a fellow human underlined the extraordinary nature of the deed and the tremendous bravery displayed.

On 9 December 1977 a serious veld fire took hold at Finsch mine and spread rapidly on to the nearby De Beers farm. The fire-fighting team, led by Awie Kotze, was called out to contain the fire.

The team went to a position where they could begin fighting the fire, but as they started the wind suddenly changed direction. With the fire rapidly advancing towards them and endangering their lives, the team retreated and climbed a hill to the safety of a firebreak.

A team member, assistant storeman Phillip Chaka, was lagging behind and in great danger of getting trapped. Seeing Chaka’s predicament, Kotze ran into the flames in an attempt to rescue him, but together with Chaka, both were overwhelmed by the flames.

The fire-fighting team battled to reach the trapped men and when they eventually did so Phillip Chaka was already dead and Awie Botha seriously burnt. Botha was rushed to the Kimberley Hospital by air, but tragically, succumbed to his burns during the flight.

Awie had displayed extraordinary courage that went far beyond the normal call of duty, and had given his life selflessly in valiantly trying to save the life of another.

He left his wife Hetta and two children, Braam and Anneli, both of whom were at school in Kimberley, to mourn his passing.PT-Abraham_Kotze-Bravery_Medal-1977

The medal, a gold watch, a Certificate of Bravery and a cheque, was presented to his family at a special function in Kimberley.

At the presentation, Mr LWP van den Bosch stated that “…the degree of courage and self-sacrifice of Awie was in the highest tradition of the mining way of life and that he deserved a place among the select band of mining men who won the award in the past.”

A bit more about Awie Kotze.
He first worked for the De Beers Company at Oranjemund as a security officer from 1969 to 1973 and at Kimberley until 1976 before he resigned to go into business with his brother.

He rejoined the company in August 1977 as an assistant security officer at Finsch Mine.

He was a person whom one could depend on, and one who was concerned about the welfare of his fellow citizens. A good worker and employee he set an example for all to be proud of. A good all-round sportsman, he played rugby until 42 years of age.

May he RIP.

9 DECEMBER 1957, Harry Oppenheimer (pictured) becomes Chairman of the De Beers Board. 
9 DECEMBER 1977, Abraham Kotze dies in a veld fire attempting to save a fellow firefighter. 



Harry Oppenheimer

Mr Harry Oppenheimer became a Director of De Beers on 27 December 1934 and retired from the position exactly sixty years later in 1994. He had already had his official farewell at the Kimberley Mine Museum after announcing his retirement at the Board meeting on 22 November 1994. At his farewell, he said that “the demand in the world for diamonds is stronger and more firmly established than it ever had been and co-operation between all the major producers is beyond doubt in the interests of them all, not only of De Beers, and for just that reason there will, in the long run, be co-operation.” The then Chairman, Julian Ogilvie-Thompson, thanked Mr Oppenheimer, and said that words were inadequate to express the company’s appreciation to Mr Oppenheimer, especially after having been on the board for sixty years, and almost half of that as Chairman. De Beers would forever be in debt to Mr Oppenheimer, he concluded.

De Beers, under the Chairmanship of Harry Oppenheimer, had become highly sophisticated in its marketing campaigns, and went a lot further in the promotion and advertising of diamonds. Their campaign “A Diamond is Forever” was highly acclaimed and in fact, won the award for the 20th century’s best marketing campaign in the entire world. The involvement of many national players on the world market, notably Russia, changed the diamond plan considerably, and it is a credit to Mr Oppenheimer how the company evolved each time there was a perceived crisis.

He had served as Chairman of the Board for 27 years from 9 December 1957 until 31 December 1984. He was also appointed to the Board of De Beers Centenary AG in 1990 when De Beers was rearranging its affairs in order to hold the international interests of the company.

After his World War II service, Mr Oppenheimer became Managing Director of the Anglo-American Corporation in 1945 and headed the team that opened seven gold mines in the Free State goldfields as well as expansion in Anglo’s copper mining interests in Zambia and the gold mines of the far west Witwatersrand in the 1950’s. In the 1960s and 1970s Anglo emerged as a major international investment company and continued to develop its mining, agricultural and manufacturing activities. On the international front, Anglo established the mining/industrial finance business Charter Consolidated, and Resources Corporation with large interests in a variety of concerns.

He stepped down as Chairman of Anglo-American in December 1982 after 48 years as a Director, and Chairman for 25 years. “It is time for a change,” he said.

His leadership over the years ensured that the future of the company was left in the hands of colleagues in whose ability, judgment and devotion to duty Mr Oppenheimer placed absolute trust.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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