Friday, December 14, 2007

Former Hoërskool Zwartberg pupil donates his library to the town

-Linda Jaquet-

Hoërskool Zwartberg “old boy”, Piet J de Wit, returned to the town of his birth at the end of October to hand over his personal library to the people of Prince Albert.

His books, including fascinating Africana, magazines, periodicals, old photographs and memorabilia, collected over a lifetime that included service in South Africa’s diplomatic corps, will soon find homes in the Fransie Pienaar Museum, the libraries of the two local schools and the Municipal Library.

In an amusing and at times, emotional address during Hoërskool Zwartberg’s assembly on Monday morning, 22 October, Piet de Wit recalled episodes from his youth: growing up with his Oupa Hennie Snyders and his two aunts on Pastorie Street, playing first team rugby on the School’s stoney pitches against unsuspecting, visiting teams, being the first Prince Alberter to fly, and his memories of the Baster community’s positive contribution to the town.

After matriculating from Hoërskool Zwartberg in 1946, Piet studied at the University of Pretoria and graduated with a BA in Political Science. He returned to his alma mater some years later to gain a Masters degree.

In the meantime, he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs where he was responsible for setting up the section that managed South Africa’s relations with the rest of Africa and went on to serve in South Africa’s diplomatic missions in Nairobi, Leopoldville and Brussels.

He always was an enthusiastic promoter of South Africa’s relations with countries to the north of us and was instrumental in the founding of the Pretoria-based Africa Institute of South Africa.

Since retiring from Government service in the 1980s, he has remained an active member of the South African Institute of International Affairs and oversaw the writing and editing of a history of the Department of Foreign Affairs, a magnum opus which was published last year.
Researching the genealogy of the de Wit family in is what keeps him busy now and remains his undying passion.

Piet de Wit’s recent return to his much-loved hometown with his wife, Doris, by his own admission, was a farewell visit. He took long walks through the village, popped in to the house where he was born and sought out green fig preserve at Samuel se Winkel.

“I’m not getting any younger,” he said, “and I hanker after the smells, colours and sounds of my youth in the Karoo. Ai, man, who knows when I’ll make it back again?”

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