Brig Christo Davidson, SAP/SAPS

Abstract The early life and times of Brig Christo Davidson from Springs to Pretoria. Key words 1963 – Troop 35 SAP College, Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital, Constable Kingsley Holgate, D/W/O Neels Langenhoven, Dannhauser, Dr Margaret Baker, Dundee, Dundee: District no. 47, Normandien, Nqutu, Sergeant Andre van Ellinckhuyzen, Sergeant Caleb Buthelezi, Sergeant Fred Human, Springs, Welkom, Photo: HBH I was born in the district of Springs, Gauteng. I attended a primary school, now known as Endicott Primary, a real farm school at the Vischkuil / Endicott small holdings. I then attended Hugenote Boys High school in Springs where I matriculated in 1962. Both schools were Afrikaans. After school I started to work at the SASOL-petroleum factory in Sasolburg in the Free State, where I joined the South African Police on Saturday 8 June 1963, at Sasolburg. I was sent by train directly to Welkom during that afternoon. Welkom is also in the Free State where my career in the police kicked off. It was my first time to get to Welkom, although I knew where it was despite the fact that I have never been there before. It was in the middle of the winter and really cold, as only the Free State can be. I was picked up by a constable Mike Kuhn at the railway station and he took me to Stateway police station in Welkom. It appeared to me as if they were not aware of my coming to Welkom but he arranged a place to sleep at the new barracks; the new police station was still under construction. I spent the Sunday at the barracks where I was provided with meals as well as issued with a room of my own, with a bed and mattress but no blankets; luckily one of the other constables in the barracks supplied me with some spare blankets but no sheets. This did not bother me much as I was looking forward to my new adventure as a student constable. On the Monday I travelled with some of the other student constables, there were ten of them, to the Stateway police station where I was introduced to the station commander, Warrant Officer O.P. Malherbe. He told me that I was to stay there until the middle of July when I would go to the police college in Pretoria with the other student constables. I was quite happy with the setup as it was a new adventure. I was exposed to work in the charge office with some of the other student constables under guidance of permanent members. Welkom was a rough town with a lot of miners who used to drink and fight. This was exiting and eventually we left for Pretoria by train. We were all met at the Pretoria railway station with a troop carrier and transported to the police college to start our training of six months. Training for people with school matric attended only a six-month course, whilst people without matric had to attend a twelve-month course. I was allocated to troop 35 with Lance Sergeant Johnny Faul as troop sergeant. I enjoyed my time at the college and made the best of it, from the physical training, the musketry to the classes and the mess. Some of my fellow students sometimes complained about the food but I did not as I was always hungry. Our training came to an end at the beginning of December 1963 and I was posted to Dannhauser in Natal. I knew where Dannhauser was as I passed there some time prior with my parents, however I was a complete stranger to Dannhauser. I travelled from Pretoria with a friend of mine, Soon van Rensburg who had a yellow Austin Mini. He was also in troop 35 but posted to Newcastle, (40 km from Dannhauser) and we arrived at our stations on 6 December 1963. Both Newcastle and Dannhauser were in the police district of Dundee, District no. 47. The station commander at the time was a Warrant Officer G A Gouws but he was promoted to Lieutenant and transferred, within a week or three of my arrival to somewhere in Port Elizabeth. He was replaced by a Warrant Officer J van Jaarsveld, nicknamed “Apie”. He was married and stayed with his wife Marie and four kids in a house on the same yard as the police station. Our unmarried constables stayed in the single quarters, consisting of two bedrooms and a bathroom with an outside toilet on the same premises. The Branch Commander of the detective branch was a Sergeant Willie (Blackie) Swart and I learned a lot about criminal investigations from him. Photo: Sgt Fred Human – Christo Davidson Other members at the station were a Sergeant Fred Human, Constables Gert Steyn, Soon Snyman, Wimpie Crause, Piet Schoeman and a few others. Sergeant Human was like a police-father to me and I still had contact with him by regular visits to him at home where he stayed in Dannhauser, the last time at the end of June 2023. He had turned 95 on 14 July 2023 but sadly passed away on 19 September 2023. There were also some Indian and black (Zulu) members with whom I developed good relationships. I also started to learn to speak Zulu which helped me a lot in communicating with Zulu members of the community, especially on the farms and at the mine hostels. It should be noted that this was the first time in my life that I actually associated with Indian people. There were no Indian people in the area where I grew up, although there were some Indian shops in Springs but my parents never shopped there. Some of the Indian members that I can remember are sergeants Sewsanker, Behari and Moodley. There was also a constable Ramasarpursad (Ramesh) who later committed suicide by playing Russian roulette with a Smith and Wesson revolver during shift change in the Charge Office. I learned a lot from the Indian members who worked on shifts in the Charge Office with me. The Indian members used to bring Indian food to work, especially when we worked night shift. This was also the first time that I tasted samosas and real Indian food, for which I still have a taste today. There was also a sergeant Nxumalo with whom I did bicycle patrol on night shift to patrol the streets in the town as well as to visit vacant houses. He was a very disciplined person and I had a lot of respect for him. In my interaction with him as well as the other black members. Dannhauser was a small town with mainly farming activities. Virtually all the shops in town were owned by Indian people and I got along with them well. There was also a coal mine at Dannhauser, namely Durban Navigation Collieries (DNC or Durnacol) where quite a number of people were employed. The black employees at the mine, sometimes up to 5000 in number, stayed in hostels on the mine property. The mining activities were conducted at the original mine shafts, named DNC no 1, DNC no 2 and DNC no 3. During my stay at Dannhauser only DNC no 3 was in full operation; the management and operational offices were at no. 3. There were other shafts namely no. 4, 5, 6 and 7 which were the more productive shafts at the time. Residential facilities in the form of proper and decent houses were at no.2 as well as no.3 shafts, occupied by various levels of employees and management. The only recreation for us youngsters was rugby at the mine and we participated in that. There were also tennis courts at the mine but I never played tennis. There was also a recreation hall at no.2 where movies were shown some Saturday nights, we sometimes went there, perhaps to see the girls; musical and dance activities were also held there from time to time. After working in the charge office for about six months I went on a driving course at the Police Mechanical school in Benoni. Following that I was allowed to drive a van and started to do some investigation of cases reported to us. A section of the main road, now the N11, was in our district and we had to attend to motor accidents. In doing that we had to draw site plans of the scenes of accident which I enjoyed as I had technical drawings as a subject at school. We also had to pay regular visits to all the farms in our area, a duty which I enjoyed. This gave me the opportunity to get to know the farmers as well as the area well. The farming district of Dannhauser is adjacent to the Normandien district and we used to cross into Normandien regularly resulting in me becoming acquainted to the Normandien farmers and area as well. What was notably in Dannhauser and Normandien districts was that there were quite a number of people, especially farmers, with the surname Cronje and they were all related to some or other extend. My daughter is currently married to a farmer and they stay on a farm in Dannhauser district. I enjoy to visit them on the farm as it feels as if I am at “home”. When visiting there I regularly meet some of the farmers who were youngsters when I was at Dannhauser and are now farming themselves on family farms. Towards the end of December 1963, I met a girl, Martha Cronje, who was visiting her grandparents staying in Oldacre Street, Dannhauser, and she became my wife six years later. She stayed with her parents at Northfield mine, Glencoe district, some 30 km. from Dannhauser and I used a bicycle, a Rudge semi-sport with fixed cock, that I bought from Amod’s cycle shop at Dannhauser, whenever I visited her. I really enjoyed my stay at Dannhauser and bought my first car there during 1966, It was a1959 Zephyr Mk 2 that I bought from Dannhauser motors, owned by Essop and Mohammed Cotwal. After I bought my Zephyr my bicycle visits came to an end. At the beginning of December 1966, I was transferred to Nqutu in Zululand, some 50 km from Dundee and still under command of the District Commandant at Dundee. SAP Nqutu Photo: HBH I moved to Nqutu with my Zephyr and transported all my belongings, packed in a steel police trunk in the boot of my Zephyr. The station commander at Nqutu was a Sergeant Andre van Ellinckhuyzen who stayed in a police house close to the police station with his family. He was slightly older than me and we got along well, officially as well as privately. Nqutu police station comprised of a two-room /office building with a veranda right around. The one office was the charge office and the other one the office of the station commander. There were one or two cells and four stables which were used when horses were in use at Nqutu some years before. Apart from myself and the station commander, the rest of the staff comprised of black (Zulu) members; I cannot remember all their names but I do remember Sergeant Caleb Buthelezi the detective and a Constable Cebekulu. Cebekulu was a real Zulu warrior and had about the same appearance/looks as the current minister of Police, Bheki Cele; however, Cebekulu was an honest reliable person in which I had a lot of trust. Nqutu was very rural with a number of traders/ shop owners throughout the district. Some that I can remember are Zululand General dealer in town, owned by Harald Wilmot. Other traders were Bob Mattheson at Vantsdrift, Trevor Schutze at Nkonjane, Ronnie Schutze at Ntababomvu, Don Johnson at Nkande, Geoff Johnson at Rorkesdrift, van Tonder at Silutshana and Gordon Dummer. There was a hotel at Nqutu owned by John and Lettie Drew. This hotel was known in the Zululand area as one with the best “table” and had a high standard of service. I stayed at the hotel with a monthly rate of R35.00, all meals and accommodation included. John drew had regular customers at the bar due to his level of service, consisting of the local traders as well as business travellers. At times, when he was ill or something he asked me to take over his duties in the bar. This was not difficult for me as I knew all the traders. It must be noted that this was not strictly in accordance with police regulations. The Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital was close to the police station and rendered much needed medical services to the community. Dr Barker was the Superintendent of the hospital with his wife Dr Margaret Barker as his assistant. The crime in Nqutu was limited to some instances of theft, especially at some of the trading stores, faction fighting and a few instances of stock theft. The groups involved in the faction fighting were never hostile towards us as policemen. In such cases we would go and collect the fatalities on both sides, request the opposing groups to report to the police station the following day, which they did. This was my first experience of investigating cases of faction fighting. But apart from that, I was never afraid to work amongst the rural Zulus. My knowledge of the Zulu language was very helpful. I was the second in command at Nqutu and, when the station commander was on course or absent from the station, I acted as station commander. I also investigated cases and acted as state prosecutor in court when Sergeant van Ellinckhuyzen was absent. During my stay at Nqutu, I became acquainted with Land Rovers and I developed a liking in 4X4 driving. Shortly after I came to Nqutu, another constable, by the name of Kingsley Holgate was transferred there from Dundee. Myself and Kingsley got along very well, became good friends and had a lot of fun. However, he was there for only a few months before he took his discharge from the police and became an adventurer and explorer. I was interested in becoming a detective and there was a request for interested members to apply for enrolment on a detective course, which I did. I was interviewed by the Divisional Commander Detective Services in Pietermaritzburg, a Brigadier, the name of which I cannot recall. I was successful in my application and left Nqutu at the end of July 1967 to Pretoria to attend the detective course. I enjoyed my stay at Nqutu and gained a lot of experience. Both as far as police work, court prosecutions/procedures and the Zulu culture are concerned. If I could have my career over, I would go the same way but stayed longer at Nqutu. On completion of the detective course, I was transferred to Newcastle as a learner detective for six months, then appointed as detective constable in January 1968 and passed my exam to sergeant in the same year. In January 1969 I was transferred to Dundee as Detective Sergeant where D/W/O Neels Langenhoven was the Branch Commander and Iwas second in charge. I also got married during September of 1969 to my girlfriend Martha Cronje as mentioned before. During 1971 I passed my exam to Warrant Officer and was transferred to the Security Branch at Newcastle during January 1972. I stayed at Newcastle and eventually was promoted to Major in April 1991. During August 1991 I was transferred to Police Head Office in Pretoria.