Re­tired Alexan­der en­joy­ing life in Bathurst after ex­celling at De Beers

Talk of the Town - - News - BOB FORD

ot in her wildest dreams did a young Hofmeyr girl be­lieve she was des­tined to be head of se­cu­rity at a di­a­mond mine be­long­ing to the fa­mous De Beers Com­pany.

Now re­tired to Bathurst, Judy Alexan­der had no plans of fol­low­ing such a ca­reer as she had qual­i­fied as a teacher.

One of five chil­dren born into the well-known farm­ing Ver­maak fam­ily in the Hofmeyr district, she had an in­ter­est­ing and full life ahead of her.

Alexan­der started her ed­u­ca­tion at the small lo­cal school as a weekly boarder up to Grade 7. She was then sent off as a boarder at the fa­mous Queen­stown Girls’ High School, where she soon ex­celled, par­tic­u­larly on the sports fields. She rep­re­sented the school in both ten­nis and hockey, cap­tain­ing the Bor­der schools side for two years in 1973/4.

Alexan­der de­cided to take up teach­ing as a ca­reer and en­rolled at the Graaff-Reinet Teach­ers’ Train­ing Col­lege after ob­tain­ing her ma­tric.

With her love of sport, it was not sur­pris­ing that she spe­cialised in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in her fourth year.

It was dur­ing these years, that Judy met her fu­ture hus­band, Jonty, who was also study­ing to be­come a teacher. In 1978, Judy took up her first teach­ing post at Union High in Graaff-Reinet, where she taught for three years. Mean­while, Jonty was teach­ing at Sel­borne in East Lon­don and she fol­lowed him to the city.

The cou­ple were mar­ried in 1983 and she stopped teach­ing a year later when their first daugh­ter was born.

NFour years later, the Alexan­ders’ life took a dra­matic change when Jonty ac­cepted a teach­ing post at the re­mote De Beers mining town of Kleinzee on the west coast. Judy ex­plained that every­one who lived in the town worked at the nearby mine and all res­i­dents had to ap­ply for se­cu­rity clear­ance be­fore be­ing ac­cepted.

While her hus­band taught at the lo­cal school, Judy’s teach­ing ca­reer came to an end when she was ap­pointed as a re­cruit­ment of­fi­cer at the mine. There was a need for a se­cu­rity train­ing of­fi­cer at the mine and Judy was ap­pointed to this po­si­tion in 1991. “I knew ab­so­lutely noth­ing about se­cu­rity and had to learn fast,” she added.

She im­me­di­ately rec­ti­fied this by ob­tain­ing a diploma in se­cu­rity in the same year through Unisa and then fol­lowed this up with an­other diploma on the sub­ject with Tech­nikon SA.

She did par­tic­u­larly well in this course and was awarded the Prin­ci­pal’s Medal for be­ing the best student. Then fol­lowed a busy and suc­cess­ful life in mine se­cu­rity as the cou­ple agreed to fol­low her ca­reer.

In 1993 Judy was pro­moted to se­cu­rity su­per­in­ten­dent, ac­cess con­trol, and had about 30 peo­ple work­ing un­der her. She said se­cu­rity was a tax­ing job as em­ploy­ees were al­ways try­ing to find dif­fer­ent ways of smug­gling di­a­monds out of the mines. “We caught one miner with sev­eral di­a­monds pushed into his nose,” she said.

As part of se­cu­rity, all em­ploy­ees had to be com­pe­tent with firearms from hand­guns through to shot­guns. These were used as a pre­cau­tion when di­a­monds were moved from the mines in air­craft to head of­fice in Jo­han­nes­burg. For­tu­nately, these never had to be used dur­ing her time.

In 1999, Judy was trans­ferred to Kim­ber­ley where she did train­ing and hu­man re­sources work and two years later she re­turned to se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions in Koffie­fontein. In 2004, she was pro­moted to man­ager of se­cu­rity and be­came the first woman to hold this po­si­tion within De Beers.

A year later, the cou­ple re­turned to Kleinzee where she was ap­pointed re­gional man­ager of se­cu­rity for the whole of the Na­maqua­land area.

The time the cou­ple spent in this un­usual town were per­haps their hap­pi­est. The mine pro­vided and main­tained ex­cel­lent sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties and they were able to pur­sue the var­i­ous games they en­joyed. It was there that they started play­ing bowls.

Her life took a change from di­a­monds in 2008 when she was ap­proached by Lon­min Platinum in Jo­han­nes­burg and was ap­pointed se­cu­rity man­ager at their re­fin­ery near Springs. But De Beers had not fin­ished with Judy and it was in 2013 that they per­suaded her to re­turn to the com­pany as se­cu­rity man­ager at Musina in Lim­popo prov­ince.

She re­tired from there in July, 2017, and the cou­ple moved to Bathurst.

It has not taken them long to make their mark in the sport­ing world with both join­ing the Kowie Bowls Club. Judy is the re­cently elected vicepres­i­dent of the club, while Jonty has just taken on the job as men’s cap­tain. He is also a keen golfer.

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