22 March 1978, Abraham Kotze (pictured) posthumously awarded the Chamber of Mines Award for Bravery.
(The presentation of the Chamber of Mines Bronze Medal. Mrs Hetta Kotze (pictured) receiving the Bronze Medal from Chamber of Mines President LWP van den Bosch (right) while the DBCM General Manager Kidger Hartley looks on. The other picture has Anneli Kotze receiving the Certificate of Bravery and Braam Kotze receiving the Gold Watch.)
DID YOU KNOW
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.
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 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.
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.
Abraham Erasmus “Awie” Kotze was born in Dikgat, Namaqualand on 6 July 1933 to Abraham Erasmus Kotze and Susanna Gloudina Kotze (nee Mostert), one of three sons born to the union.
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. An all-round sportsman, he played rugby until 42 years of age.
May he RIP.