Johan Oosthuizen – Freeman of Potchefstroom

by | Jul 29, 2021 | Forgotten Heroes, People, Street names | 0 comments

Oosthuizen Street in the Heilige Akker was named after Alderman* Johan Oosthuizen, who resided in the Heilige Akker for many years. The Oosthuizens was one of the first residents in this area and resided in Johannes Dreyer Street. While preparing the article on the origins of street names starting with an “O” I realised that the customary three paragraphs will not do Johan Oosthuizen justice, hence this article.

I remember very well the first time I came into personal contact with the mayor. I was working as a rookie reporter at the Herald and was sent to take a photograph of something happening at the house of the then curator of the Potchefstroom Museum, Mione du Toit. Ten to fifteen people were mingling in Mione’s living room, amongst them the mayor, wearing his mayoral robe and the heavy gold mayoral chain. When I looked at the mayor, Mr Johan Oosthuizen, I saw that the heavy gold chain was pinned to his shoulder with a large safety pin! I then realised that mayors are people just like ourselves and not somebody on a pedestal!

That happened somewhere between 1982 and 1984 and was the first time I met him. When he decided to retire from public life in 1984, I did an article about him for the Herald. Our paths crossed again almost two decades later, in 2013, when I interviewed him for an article to be published in the supplement to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Potchefstroom. This article is a condensed English version of the Afrikaans one that was published in 2013:

Outstanding and honoured mayor

Much water flowed into the sea since Alderman Johan Oosthuizen (83) had last hung the mayoral robe over his shoulders, but his iridescent blue eyes and friendly smile is precisely the same as when he held this office for nine terms. Twenty-five years ago, when Potchefstroom celebrated its 150th anniversary in a lustrous manner, he was the mayor.

In 2013, when this photograph was taken, it was almost is ten years since Johan Oosthuizen had retired as a councillor and more than forty years since he became one, but his iridescent blue eyes and friendly smile is still the same as when he was mayor of Potchefstroom for nine terms.

“I attended 450 functions that year and made 300 speeches,” he remembered. He was known to eagerly accept invitations to events where he could meet the people of Potchefstroom. That is why he was a councillor for 30 years, he says, to take care of the people of Potchefstroom, where he was born and lived his whole life.

He became a councillor in 1962 and eventually retired in 1994. Until now he was the longest serving councillor of the Potchefstroom city council.

City council meetings were no joke

City council meetings are not a joke, but it had some lighter moments. He said that shortly after he became a councillor, Prof HL Swanepoel, who was the dean of the Law Faculty at the Potchefstroom University, was the mayor. One councillor was always very quick to say: “Approve, approve!” when an item on the agenda was discussed, but everybody knew that he never read the bulky agenda of the council meetings.

On one such occasion, Prof Swanepoel seriously addressed this councillor and said: “Councillor, what did you just approved?”

The rest of the members had difficulty in not bursting out laughing and he remembered that Rev Mieder Olivier slowly slid down his chair so that he nearly dove under the table in order to control his laughter.

From all walks of live he received accolades for his service to the community, including the military, police and from charity organisations. He is one of three Potchefstroom residents who received the freedom of the city.

He was a member of the board of the Potchefstroom Teachers Training College for 27 years of which 21 years as chairman. He served for many years on the Board of Patrons of the Potchefstroom University. In 1987 he received an honorary shield from the College and in 1989 one from the University.

Nowadays he lives in Huis Anna Viljoen, the home for the aged where he and his wife attended the official opening on 1 September 1971. “I am satisfied to stay here,” he said. His wife, the attractive and elegant, Ria, is being cared for here for some time. She suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Twenty-two years ago she was a member of the first committee of Huis Anna Viljoen.

Mr Johan Oosthuizen and his wife Ria were photographed for the Herald when he announced his retirement from public life in 1984. His final retirement was ten years later in 1994.

He and Ria contributed to the founding of the Potchefstroom Service Centre for the Aged and this is one thing that stands out from his 30 years of service. A function that was organised in 1983, the Year of the Aged, where the elderly were entertained, led to the founding of the Mooirivier Club and the Service Centre for the Aged, which opened its doors in October 1983.

Would he do it all again if he had the choice? His answer: “Without a doubt, yes! I enjoyed it immensely.” And he would not have been able to do it without his wife, he added, she supported him in everything he did.

An article that appeared in the Herald in 1994 stated:

Alderman Johan Christiaan Oosthuizen was born on 27 August 1930 in Potchefstroom and he lived here his whole life.

He attended the Potchefstroom Gimnasium where he matriculated in 1947.

In 1948 he registered to study to obtain the BComm degree at the Potchefstroom University, but decided to go into business with his father. He was in the meat industry for 22 years. He then sold his butcheries and started a business in the steel industry, which he also later sold.

After retiring from public life, he again became a businessman and farmed on Tierfontein near Schoemansdrift. Since then he has sold all his business concerns and the farm.

These days he enjoys reading fiction and says: “I keep an eye on my finances and as always plan my budget a year in advance.”

Alderman Johan Oosthuizen (left) was mayor of Potchefstroom in 1988 when the town celebrated its 150th anniversary. The Herald published a special supplement that year. Here Mr Schalk Hoogenboezem (right), manager of Nasionale Streekkoerante, owner of the Herald, hands a copy to Alderman Oosthuizen. Photo: Herald

Without a doubt Johan Oosthuizen was one of the most memorable and honoured mayors of Potchefstroom. He passed away on Sunday 7 May 2017.

Fellow Alderman Chris Landsberg, wrote a homage published in the Herald. Landsberg wrote that Johan Oosthuizen was known as “Mr Potchefstroom”.

“He had no equal as the chairman of council meetings. Agendas with between 180 and 200 points were dealt with in no time. Councillors had enough time to participate in debates, but were not allowed to wax eloquently or stray from the point. The Rules of Procedure were applied with precision.

Honouring this affable man is a great pleasure. May his lifelong service to the city of Potchefstroom be an inspiration to all.

*”Alderman” is an honorary title conferred upon city councillors who gave exceptional service to their cities.