Jaap Koopman

Jaap Koopman was born and raised on Kleinvlei and was 59 years old when the interview was conducted. His father was the foreman on Kleinvlei farm and his grandfather was born there as well. He considers it a family farm and still loves it dearly.

Jaap Koopman shares stories of his strict upbringing and the cautionary tales they were told about the waterbaas (water boss) living in the river. He talks about how Clanwilliam has changed over the years and his family’s relationship with the farmer at Kleinvlei.

Jaap Koopman was 59 years old at the time of the interview. He explains that he does not have a lot of knowledge of Clanwilliam as he left for Cape Town to work when he was 18 years old. He returned when he was about 55 years old and now works in Clanwilliam. His father was the foreman of Kleinvlei and was born on the farm. He lived there his entire life and Jaap’s grandfather was born there, too. Jaap says it is actually their family farm and he still loves it dearly.

Jaap’s father was very strict and did not speak much. As children they were taught to be respectful and never swore at one another. It was very different then in comparison to today. Jaap is one of eight brothers and three sisters who all had the same upbringing. He only once got a hiding from his father. All people from his generation were raised to be respectful and would never do anything to harm another. Many of them still work on the farm.

Jaap was warned about the waterbaas (water boss) and swimming in the river near the whirlpool. They swam in the farm dam instead, as they were scared. Clanwilliam is different now, as there are now many squatters. The white people avoid going into the town center. He does not know if the future holds positive things for Clanwilliam. He feels they had better lives back then and explains that the farmer was good to his family and helped them to go to high school in Malmesbury. All the farmers from those times have passed away. Jaap’s eldest brother will never leave the farm – he loves it too much. Jaap also thinks the police are not as good as they were back in the day.


My name is Jaap Koopman. I was born on Kleinvlei, on a farm in Clanwilliam, here. I don’t have much knowledge of Clanwilliam, because, because I, at the age of 18 I left my pa and them and my ma and them to go and work. Like, for example, I worked in the Cape for most of the time, a long time. I’ve now been back, four years ago I returned to Clanwilliam because of work, and I’m still working now.

Yes, at the moment I’m 59 years old.

Tell us, how were your father and them?

My pa and them, my pa, all the years that he was on the farm where I was born, Kleinvlei, my pa was a foreman. My late grandpa, everyone was born there on the farm, and grew up there. So it’s actually a family farm and I still love that farm, that Kleinvlei farm, very much.

Your father and them told you many stories, didn’t they? Can you still remember one or two?

Oh golly, I can’t… I didn’t talk much to my pa and them because my pa was a very strict man. He was a strict man and he didn’t speak a lot. The same as me, I’m not someone who speaks a lot.

Tell us, how was the respect in those times?

Yes, the respect. Those years, ohhh, golly, compared to the respect of today, there is a very big difference, because in those days you couldn’t swear at your brother, or swear at someone else, you couldn’t return home late. Say, for instance, you were late for a plate of food on Sundays, then you had to wait for Sunday evenings, for a plate of food. That was how it was previously, very strict people, really very strict, truly. Compared with life today. When you see how the children of today live, there is a very big difference, because the children of today, they don’t come close to the people of those years. And I’ll say it again, I grew up very beautifully, and I still have that re-, that, that which I got from my parents, that education, I still have it in me. I’ll never… speak a wrong word to someone else, or offend someone, or, say, like for instance, be underhanded towards other people, so that today… At the age of… 19 years I started, touched a smo-, a cigarette, also maybe a bit of drink. And, but, like today, the children of today, they start from the age of ten, 11 years. I mean, it’s a big difference between those years and, I mean, what life is like today. And I’ll say it again, the children really, I don’t know where we’re going with, where we’re going with the children of today. If one looks and you see, then; you look… you maybe know the parents of the child and then you see, but this child is, also good parents, but as the, like the, I know they say the parents may not hit the children or discipline them, or the school may not discipline the children. I think it’s a big mistake that they made. When I grew up, you got a good hiding, and if I… I can say this, my pa only gave me one hiding during my life, once in my life while I was in his care. I had, we’re 11, eight brothers and three sisters, and believe me, all of them are more or less the same as I am, all are the same.

And the friends I grew up with on that farm, those children, those adults I grew up under, and those people are exactly, those children who’re still alive today, are exaxtly the same as I am. They have respect for other people, they won’t do you in, they, they have work. They, many of them are the same age as me and are still working on the farm today. They still have that spirit in them. And you can ask any of those people and they won’t tell you, won’t tell you lies, or he will not, if something happens, like the people of today hide things, don’t they? Those people, like us, don’t hide things. You’re not afraid to hear such things, because why, the next man will know immediately, listen here, that man doesn’t beat about the bush. That man will speak the truth.

Like I said, life today and that life are very different.

Okay. You grew up next to the river, didn’t you?


Did people talk a lot about the water people who lived in the water? Can you still remember something?

Yes, and we were always warned, we mustn’t swim in the river, we were always warned by the adults, we always had to, never go swimming at a whirlpool in the river. We always had to know what it was about, there was a water maiden or something that wanted to catch you, and that type of thing. And because of that we were always very careful. We always swam in the farm dam and we hardly ever swam in the river…

What did they say, what was the water boss like?

Well, look, I can’t really say what the water boss was like, they probably also had little knowledge of that water boss, so I don’t have something to say about that water boss. But as I say, like life is here in Clanwilliam today, I’m now speaking specifically about Clanwilliam, the place has changed a lot. I don’t want to be racist but after, after I came back from the Cape, I saw that there was a big change here, probably because of the large number of people who’ve come to Clanwilliam, and it is a complete change, is a complete change, of the town itself. Even the white people, you can see, don’t like the centre of town, shall I say, the centre of the town, because of the, people of today will probably say, because of unemployment, that the guys walk around loafing, and ask for something here, and ask for something there. Is very little work for them.

And on the farms the farmers naturally also don’t want to take on too many people to work for them, because why, the many dagga* smokers. The guy goes to work on the farm today and he looks around, then he sees, wait, here is something we can take. And then he maybe goes to his friends and says, “Listen here, tonight we’re maybe going to that farm and get something there.” That is how life is today. It’s more about, about children who haven’t been brought up correctly, who’re underfed and who’re illiterate, that is probably the big problem in this town. I’m now speaking specifically about this town, I don’t know the other towns, but specifically in this town.

Then, I want to say, I don’t know, I don’t know where we’re going. I don’t know where we’re going. We just hope that maybe it will be better one day, but as I see it, it will not be better.

What is the difference between life on the farm and life here in town?

Yes, I’m not one, we, let me say again, my pa and them were very strict people, we just about didn’t know anything about the town. If we maybe came to town, then it was maybe Christmas time when we maybe saw the town, maybe saw the town. That time it was still lorry time, and everyone on a lorry and then into town, and then leave again. But we were still children. As I say, we were in the farm school, when you finished school for the day, if you were old enough, you had to work there on the farm, pick up potatoes and that kind of thing. If you maybe got a sweet… that time money still had value, but then we still had to give some money to Pa, Ma as well. Because they also got little money for the, on the farm.

I mean, I won’t, I would say, that time we, like now, we lived better at the time than we’re living now. We lived much better than we’re living now, and then they say the farmers, they say they’re bad, but the farmers were actually not bad in those times. They say the farmers were verkramp*, racist, but, like me, like the farmer where we grew up, he helped my pa and them, my brothers and me myself. He helped my pa and them to finish secondary school, Malmesbury, Schoonspruit, this is what I can say about the farmers. I don’t know other farmers, but what I know I can say, about this farmer where I grew up. Now, they’ve all passed away, it’s just the boys who’re still here, we that, but most of us are now already, most of us are now already gone from the farm, it’s only my eldest brother who is still on the farm, but he says, you will not get me away from that farm. He’s the oldest brother as well, of the eight brothers.

We had a teacher, a Mister Johnson, there at the primary school, the farm school, Oh, you couldn’t, if you got a hiding at school and you said you were going to tell Grandpa, and go and tell Ma and Pa, then Mister Johnson said to you, “I’ll come along to your father.” We were too scared to go tell my pa or my ma that we got a hiding at school, otherwise you would get a hiding there as well. And he was a friend, he was a friend of my pa and my ma. He was one of the strict teachers, strict, strict, like those policemen of that time, that time, as well. They were strict policemen, not like today. I don’t want to say like the dolls of today, but one can call them that, because they just sit and drive around, and they do nothing, they don’t do their work. I myself have ten years’ experience of the police force. But looking at them, I really don’t know…

Jaap Koopman is op Kleinvlei gebore en het daar grootgeword. Hy was 59 jaar oud ten tyde van die onderhoud. Sy pa en sy oupa is ook op Kleinvlei gebore. Sy pa was voorman op die plaas. Hy is baie lief vir die plaas en beskou dit as ’n familieplaas.

Jaap vertel hoe streng hy grootgemaak is en van die bangmaakstories wat die grootmense vir hulle vertel het oor die waterbaas wat in die rivier woon. Hy vertel hoe Clanwilliam deur die jare verander het en van sy familie se verhouding met die boer op Kleinvlei.

Jaap Koopman was 59 jaar oud ten tyde van die onderhoud. Hy verduidelik dat hy nie baie van Clanwilliam weet nie omdat hy op 18 daar weg is om in Kaapstad te gaan werk. Hy het teruggekom toe hy omtrent 55 jaar oud was en werk nou op die dorp. Sy pa was die voorman op Kleinvlei en is op die plaas gebore. Hy het sy hele lewe lank daar gewoon en Jaap se oupa is ook daar gebore. Jaap sê dis eintlik ’n familieplaas en dat hy baie lief is vir die plaas.

Jaap se pa was ’n streng man en het nie veel gepraat nie. As kinders is hulle geleer om respek te betoon en mekaar nooit te vloek nie. Dit was baie anders as vandag. Jaap is een van agt broers en drie susters wat almal op dieselfde manier grootgemaak is. Hy het net eenkeer ’n pak slae by sy pa gekry. Almal van sy geslag is grootgemaak om respek te betoon en sou nooit iets doen om iemand anders te benadeel nie. Baie van hulle werk nog steeds op die plaas.

Jaap is gewaarsku oor die waterbaas en om nie in die rivier by die maalgat te swem nie. Omdat hulle bang was, het hulle eerder in die plaasdam geswem. Clanwilliam is nou anders, want daar is baie plakkers. Die blankes vermy die middedorp. Hy weet nie of die toekoms positiewe dinge vir Clanwilliam inhou nie. Hy voel hulle het destyds beter gelewe en verduidelik dat die boer goed was vir sy familie en die kinders gehelp het om hulle hoërskoolloopbaan op Malmesbury te voltooi. Al die boere van daardie tyd is oorlede. Jaap se oudste broer sal nooit die plaas verlaat nie, hy is te lief daarvoor. Jaap dink ook die polisie van vandag is nie so goed as wat hulle destyds was nie.


My naam is Jaap Koopman. Ek is gebore op Kleinvlei, op ’n plaas in Clanwilliam, hierso.  ek het nie veel kennis van Clanwilliam nie, want, because, ek het,  van agtienjarige ouderdom af, wat ek, my pa-hulle en my ma-hulle verlaat, enne, om te gaan werk. Soos byvoorbeeld, ek het in die Kaap, die meeste van die tyd, lang tyd, het ek gewerk, dat ek nou vier jaar terug, het ek weer teruggekeer na Clanwilliam, as gevolg van werk, lat ek nou nog hierdie tyd nog altyd werksaam is.

Ja, ek is op die oomblik nou nege-en-vyftig jaar oud.

Vertel vir ons, hoe was jou pa-hulle gewees.

Ja, my pa-hulle, my pa,  nog al die jare was hy op die plaas wat ek gebore is, Kleinvlei, was my pa ’n voorman. My oorlede oupa, almal is daar op die plaas gebore, en grootgeraak. So, dit is eintlik ’n familieplaas, enne, ek is nou nog baie lief vir daai plaas, daai Kleinvlei-plaas.

Jou pa-hulle het mos vir jou baie stories vertel, kan jy nog een of twee onthou?

O jene, dit kan ek nou … ek het nie baie veel saam met my pa-hulle gesels nie, want my pa was maar ’n streng man gewees. Hy was maar ’n streng man gewees, enne, hy’t nie eintlik sommer baie gesels het nie. Dieselfde soos ek, ek is nie iemand wat baie gesels nie.

Sê ons, hoe was die respek daai tyd gewees?

Ja, die respek. Daai jare, o-e-e, jene, teenoor die respek van vandag, is ’n baie groot verskil, because,  daai tye kon jy nie jou broer gevloek het, of iemand anders gevloek het, jy kon nie laat by die huis gekom het nie. Sê, byvoorbeeld, Sondae as jy laat is vir ’n bord kos, dan moet jy maar wag vir Sondae-aande, vir ’n bord kos. Dit was voorheen gewees, baie streng mense gewees, rêrig baie streng, eerlikwaar. Teenoor vandag se lewe, as jy sien hoe die kinders vandag lewe, is ’n baie groot verskil, want die kinders van vandag, hulle kom nie naby daai mense van daai jare nie. Enne, soos ek weer sê, ek het baie lieflik grootgeraak en ek het nog altyd daai re-, daai, daai, daai wat ek by my ouers gekry het, daai opvoeding, het ek nog altyd by my. Ek sal nooit,   ’n verkeerde woord teenoor, vir iemand anders gee, enne, of vir iemand na-, nadoen, of, sê, soos byvoorbeeld die skelmstreke uithaal en, teenoor ander mense, dat soos vandag, ek het op ’n ouderdom van … van neëntien jaar het ek beginne aan ’n ro-, ’n sigretjie gevat, asook miskien ’n drinkerytjie. En, maar, soos vandag,  die kinders van vandag, begin sommer nou van tien, elf jaar,  ek meen dis ’n groot verskil van daai jare tot, ek meen, soos vandag se lewe is. Enne, sê ek weer, lat,  die kinders rêrigwaar, ek weet nie, waar gaan ons met, waar gaan ons met die kinders van vandag heen nie. As ’n mens nou so kyk en sien, en dan,  kyk, jy … jy ken miskien die kind se ouers en dan sien jy, maar dié kind is, ook goeie ouers, maar soos die, soos die, uhm, ek weet mos nou hulle sê die ouers mag nie meer die kinders slaan of tug, of skole mag nie die kinders tug nie. Ek dink dis ’n groot fout wat hulle gemaak het. Daai jare van my, het jy sommer rêrig ’n pak slae gekry, enne, as ek, as ek moet sê, my pa het in my leeftyd het ek een keer pak by hom gekry, een keer in my lewe, terwyl ek onder sy toesig gewees het. Ek het,  ons is elf, ag broers en drie susters, enne, glo my, almal is presies omtrent dieselfde wat ek nou sê, almal is dieselfde.

Enne, die vriende wat ek saam met grootgeraak het op daai plaas, daai kinders, daai grootmense, het ek onder grootgeraak en daai mense is presies, hulle kinders wat vandag nog lewe, is presies dieselfde as wat ek is. Hulle het ’n respek vir ander mense, hulle sal jou ook nie te na kom nie, hulle, hulle het werk, hulle, baie van hulle het die ouderdom wat ek nou het, wat op die plaas werk, nou nog. Hulle het daai werksgees nog in hulle. Enne, jy kan maar enigeen van daai mense vra, en hy sal nie vir jou,  staan leuens vertel, of hy sal nie, as daar iets gebeur,   wat, soos vandag se mense steek mos dinge weg. Daai mense, soos ons, steek nie dinge weg nie. Jy’s nie te bang om sulke dinge te kan hoor, enne, because why, die volgende man sal sommer weet, hoor hier, daai man is nie ’n man wat nie sy hoekies en draaitjies loop nie. Daai man sal die waarheid praat.

Soos ek weer sê, vandag se lewe en daai lewe is ’n groot verskil.

Oukei, julle’t mos, julle het mos teen die rivier grootgeword ….


Het die mense baie vertel van die watermense wat daar in die water bly. Kan jy nog iets onthou?

Ja-a, en, ons is altyd gewaarsku, ons moet nie in die rivier gaan swem nie, ons was altyd gewaarsku, van die grootmense, ons moet altyd, nooit by ’n maalgat in die rivier gat swem nie. Ons moes altyd geweet het waaroor dit gaan, daar’s ’n waternôientjie, of iets, wat jou wil vang, en dié klas van dinge. En daaroor was ons altyd baie versigtig gewees. Ons het maar altyd in die plaasdam geswem het en ons het omtrent nooit in die rivier,  uhh …

Hoe sê hulle, hoe was die waterbaas?

Ja-nee, kyk, ek kan nie eintlik sê hoe, hoe was die waterbaas gewees nie, enne, hulle het seker ook maar min kennis gedra van daai waterbaas, so ek weet nou self nie om iets te sê van daai waterbaas nie. Maar, soos ek verder sê, soos die lewe vandag is hier in Clanwilliam, ek praat nou presies hier van Clanwilliam, en die plek is baie verander,  ek wil nou nie rassisties wees nie, maar ná, nadat ek uit die Kaap uit gekom het, sien ek, maar hier is ’n groot verandering, seker maar net as gevolg van die klomp mense wat kom inpak het hier op Clanwilliam, en, is ’n hele verandering, is ’n hele verandering van, van die dorp self. Selfs die blanke mense, kan jy sien, het nie eers meer lus vir middestad, sal ek sê, middestad van die dorp nie, as gevolg van die,  mense van vandag sal seker maar sê, as gevolg van werkloosheid, wat die mannetjies loop loaf, en klop hier aan vir iets, en klop daar aan vir iets. Is maar baie weinig werk vir hulle.

En op die plase wil die boere nou natuurlik ook nie te veel mense vat en, om te gaan werk nie, en, because why, nou die klomp daggarokers nou, die mannetjie loop werk vandag op die plaas, nou kyk hy in die rondte, dan sien hy, wag, hier is ’n dingetjie wat ons kan vat. Enne, dan gaan hy miskien by sy vriendjies sê: “Hoor hier, ons gaan vanaand miskien na daai plaas toe gaan en iets kry daarso.” Dis hoe die lewe vandag is. Dit gaan meer oor, oor kinders wat nie reg opgevoed is nie, wat ondervoed is, en wat ongeletterd is, dis maar seker maar die groot probleem in hierdie dorp. Ek praat nou net spesifiek van hierdie dorp, ek weet nou nie ander dorpe, maar spesifiek in dié dorp.

Dan,  wil ek maar sê, ek weet nie, ek weet nie waarheen ons gaan nie. Ek weet nie waarheen ons gaan nie. Ons hoop maar, dat sal miskien eendag beter gaan, maar soos ek sien, sal dit nie beter gaan nie.

Hoe was die verskil gewees van die lewe op die plaas en nou die lewe hier op die dorp?

Ja, ek is nie een, ons, soos ek weer sê, my pa-hulle was baie streng mense gewees, ons het nie omtrent dorp geken nie. As ons miskien in die dorp kom, dan was dit miskien oor Krismistye of, waar ons miskien die dorp, miskien die dorp sien. Daai tyd was dit ook maar lorrietyd gewees, en almal op ’n lorrie, en, enne, dan in dorp toe gaan, en dan maar weer uitgaan, maar dis mos maar kinders gewees. Soos ek sê, ons was daar op die plaasskooltjie gewees, as jy klaar met die skooltjie is, in die dag, as jy is al groot genoeg, dan moet jy maar daar op die plaas gaan werk, daar aartappels optel, en al dié klas van dinge. As jy nou miskien ’n lekker kry, daai tyd was geld baie waarde gewees, maar dan moet ons nog so,   geldjie afgee by Pa, Ma ook. Want hulle het maar baie min geld gekry, vir die, op die plaas.

Ek meen,  ek sal nie, ek sal sê, daai tyd het ons, soos nou, het ons beter gelewe, daai tyd, as wat ons nou lewe. Ons het baie beter gelewe as wat ons nou lewe, en dan sê – die boere, sal hul sê, is sleg, maar die boere is nie eintlik sleg daai tyd gewees nie. Hulle sê die boere was verkramp, rassisties, maar,  soos ek, soos die boer by wie ons grootgeraak het, hy het my pa-hulle gehelp, van my broers, en ek, myself. Hy’t my pa-hulle gehelp om ’n hoërskool klaar te maak, Malmesbury, Schoonspruit,  dis wat ek nou kan sê van die plaasboere. Ek ken nie ander boere nie, maar ek ken nou presies soos ek kan sê, hierdie boer met wie ek grootgeraak het. Nou, hulle is almal oorlede, maar nou net die seuns wat nou nog hier is, ons wat, maar meeste van ons is nou al, meeste van ons is nou al van die plaas af, dis maar net my oudste broer wat op die plaas is, maar hy sê, jy kry my nie weg van daai plaas af nie. Hy’s die oudste broer ôk, van die ag broers.

Ons het ’n onderwyser gehad, ’n mister Johnson, daar by die laerskool, die plaasskooltjie. O, jy kan nie, as jy pak gekry het by die skool, enne, jy sê jy gaan vir Oupa, en vir Ma en Pa loop sê, dan sê mister Johnson vir jou, uhh: “Ek gaan sommer saam na jou pa toe.” Ons was te bang om vir my pa of vir my ma te loop sê dat ons het pak gekry by die skool, anders gaan jy daar ook pak kry. En daai was ’n vriend, hy was ’n vriend van my pa en my ma gewees. Hy was een van die streng onderwysers gewees, streng, streng, soos ’n mens, sê nou, daai poliesmanne ook, van daai, daai tyd. Hulle was streng poliesmanne gewees, nie soos vandag se, ek wil nie sê,  soos vandag se poppe nie, maar mens kan dit maar so noem, want hulle sit en ry ook maar net in die rondte, en hulle doen niks nie, hulle doen nie hulle werk nie. Ek self het tien jaar kennis van die Polies Force. Maar, soos ek hulle kyk, weet ek nie mooi nie …