LEPHALALE — Jürgen Tuttas, Commissioning Manager for Matimba Power Station from 1984 until 1993, recently visited Lephalale to introduce a book he wrote about his time in South Africa. Mogol Post met him at the Palm Park Hotel where he stayed during his visit and he explained that his book was written in “three parts”.
The idea for his book, “Tropic of Capricorn”, originated after he came back to Lephalale in 2005 until 2014. “I thought it was worthwhile to write stories about what we had experienced in South Africa from a European view. At first I was not sure where to start and what I wanted to say, but the more I wrote, the more I had to tell” he said. Initially the book was handwritten but later it was typed with “two fingers” on a computer. All 370 pages of it.
Jürgens explains that the first part of the book deals with him and his wife, Dietgard’s, experiences while staying in Lephalale from 1984 to 1993. “When we came to South Africa, we didn’t have a clue about politics and we had no idea how apartheid worked. We were also not aware of the huge differences between the big cities and the smaller Bushveld towns. For us, everything felt like a normal South African life. At Matimba, the working atmosphere between the black and white cultures was very peaceful and there was nothing wrong” he says.
Over the years Jürgen became interested in the political developments after the former State President FW de Klerk took over from PW Botha. “I try to explain the changes that developed over the years in South Africa through the eyes of a European”. The first part of his book ends with a tearful goodbye at the former Jan Smuts airport. He says that lifelong friendships started in Lephalale and it was sad to say goodbye to the beautiful country and its people. “We however still had it in mind that we would perhaps have to come back with the completion of Matimba” he said.
There was a short interim between the first and the second part of the book. They were living in Germany and he says it was very difficult for them to adapt to the European winters after living in the sunny South Africa (especially Lephalale). “We arrived in Germany in August 1993. The sun was not shining and it was dark for three months” he says. Dietgard was very firm about the fact that she never wanted to return to Germany and she just wanted to stay in Lephalale. “South Africa is a wonderful country with wonderful people, there is a certain kind of freedom of life in SA” she says.
Then the sun came to them in the form of a visit from dear friends from South Africa, Ute and Attie Martin. “They came to visit during June in 1995 and although Germany is not a rugby country, we managed to watch the opening match of the Rugby World Cup together.
“The Martin’s then used Dietgard’s car to travel around Europe and when they came back I could give Attie the good news that we could watch the final World Cup match on television. We celebrated the victory with Boschendal Sparkling wine. It was an evening we will never forget” Jürgen says.
The second part of the book starts with Jürgens’ return to Matimba from 1995 until 2002. “The political change in principal was completed” he says.
“I have sweet heroes in South Africa; in the first place is FW de Klerk – he initiated something that resulted in himself losing power; and that is not something you would expect from a politician. My second hero is Pieter Dirk Uys whom I haven’t met yet and the third one is Zaphiro – he is capable of drawing the truth” he concluded.
Jürgen was also president of Mogol Golf Club for five years and it was during this time that he got the opportunity to meet FW de Klerk. “I remember we met in a locker room at a golf club in Centurion and I saw that he carried his own bag. When I realised who it was, I was very nervous, but I will never forget what he said to me – Not everything we did was perfect, but it was the right thing to do”, says Jürgen.
At the end of 2001 Jurgens’ work permit was not extended and they had to return to Germany for the second time. Again, leaving South Africa was heart-breaking for them. For the next three years he worked in Shanghai.
Part three of the book is written about the period from 2005 until as recently as 2014 when they were living “in and out” of South Africa. Jürgen and Johnny Erasmus, the owner of Palm Park Hotel, are good friends and Jürgen became involved in the renovation and upgrading of the Palm Park Complex. It was during this period that he decided to write a book.
Maybe this is their last visit to South Africa, he said. They are not youngsters anymore. But South Africa and its people will be cherished in their hearts forever. And one day he wants his ashes to be scattered in the yard of their former home in 5 Gruis Ave in Onverwacht.
Jürgens’ book, Tropic in Capricorn is only available in German and it is dedicated to Stephan Hattingh, a good friend of theirs who died in a car crash and Nick Kilroy who tragically died in a helicopter crash around eight years ago.