Jan van der Westhuizen
Lived in Andriesvale, near the Kalagadi nature reserve. Tel 0721596823
He was born in 1954. His mother was Anna van der Westhuizen. His father was German and Jan was born out of wedlock. He grew up with his Grandmother Anna. She passed away in 1961 when he was eight. He went to stay with his mother and step father. His step father was a coloured stock farmer called Yman. He farmed on the edge of the Park.
At the age of eight Jan entered school. In 1967 he left school and went to herd sheep for his step father. At that time the Kalahari was still full of life and wild. Lions were roaming around everywhere.
At the age of 19, Jan decided to lead his own life away from the pressure of his stepfather and the sheep. He clearly recalls how he swung his jacket onto his shoulder and walked out of his step father’s house. He walked away with a swagger. After that incident he had to look after himself. You have to drink the pill you decided on.
He applied for work at the Park and was employed as an assisted in animal research. He was supervised by Prof. Gas Mills. They first studied the black wolves and later the tiger wolves. Jan collected their dung and inspected it under a microscope to identify the bone fragments. Using this technique they could establish the diet. He taught himself to read and write during this period.
Prof Fritz Elof from Nature conservation was also present. Elias Le Riche was very critical of the Bushmen and had many arguments with Jan about them. Jan had to go on patrolling rounds to apprehend them but he was very unhappy about that. Because he tried to protect them he felt like a king for them. The Bushmen were nomadic and moved with the changes of the weather and left the area of the park during a drought. When they returned after it had rained again they found that a fence had been built, a park declared, and they were denied access.
After 9 years in the Park, Jan left.
He had gone to look for a wife. His mother told him not to marry with a local girl as they were all related. “ You have to find a wife from far away to get my approval. You first have to live with her.“ That is how he got to know about life in the city and tried his hand at all kinds of work but especially worked in construction. He found her: Ennie Nouwitsen. In 1987 he returned to Philandersbron with wife and children. He was overjoyed that she was prepared to return with him to the Kalahari. He continued for another two years in the construction industry but in 1989 he stopped because of a previous injury from falling that now started to bother him too much.
In 1996 after the new political dispensation started Jan and Dawid Regopstaan Kruiper started to cooperate in putting in a land claim for the San. In 1999 they got their land and they were very happy. It rained very well. In 2000 they were settled onto the land. Many of the people were ill but Jan and his family were fine because of his knowledge of the local herbs with which he could help. Then he decided to help the others too.
Jan gathered his knowledge of the herbs since he was a child by learning from his mother. All the healing was done with herbs from the hills and valleys. He also learnt which animals ate which grasses and the kinds of worms that make them sick.
He has 8 children and 5 grand children, 2 adopted boys. He also takes care of a young man of 30 and young woman of 43 and an orphan.
“Not only do I have my own knowledge now but also have access to knowledge from afar. With the help of my wife we can now achieve a great deal. She looks after the children and rubs out the pains of the women with her knowledge of picking up their intestines that have collapsed. She can also relax their hearts and reduce the blood pressure.”
“In previous years life has been bitterly difficult but now life has become sweet. Now we can truly say thank you.
Now we can share our knowledge of the fields and the earth. Now I can also build on that foundation and try to make everything possible.”
He has since passed out of this body and is missed by his friends, family and students.