GEORGE NEWS - The next time you visit the offices of the Department of Home Affairs in George, you may feel that something is amiss - and you'd be right.
Llewellyn (Pottie) Potgieter, part and parcel of the department in the Southern Cape for more than 30 years, is calling it a day.
The 52-year old's last day at the office is today, 30 April. He is starting a new business, Q4U, and will also be the spokesperson for Pay it Forward RSA-PHP.
Over the years he has spoken to more than a million people and has served third and fourth generation members of some families. Many people can attest to Pottie's willingness to walk the extra mile.
For Potgieter, the road to the Southern Cape had a few bends and twists. He was born in Welkom, but grew up in Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal. Then he was called up for national service in Kimberley. During this time his mother moved to George and after completing national service he joined her here. He met his wife, Zelma, at the badminton club in George. They have three children.
He started working at Home Affairs on 10 April 1989 as a junior clerk on a salary of R911 before deductions. In the three decades he has worked in all sections, except human resources.
Over the years many famous people have crossed his path, including golfers Retief Goosen and Ernie Els; publisher and author Myra Lochner; singers Wendy Oldfield and Elvis Blue; international pianist and violinist siblings Ammiel and Avigail Bushakevitz; and rugby players Braam van Straaten, Andries van Eck, Warrick Gelant and Anton Leonard.
In sickness and in health
The job had its ups and its downs, and he has many anecdotes to tell. Prior to 1994 he was one of a group of officials that went out to take applications for IDs, passports and birth registration on a farm in Calitzdorp. "While working they provided us with chicken pies. These were warmed up and we ate them before we left.
"On route to Oudtshoorn we became very sick and stopped at bar to go to the toilet. I nearly passed out. I was taken to hospital, put on a drip and was shaking like a dog that had ingested poison. The others only became sick later," he remembers.
There was humour, too. In 1991 a lady came to apply for a passport. On the application people had to fill in "sex", meaning male or female, but these options were not spelled out. The lady wrote "twice a week".
Pottie enjoyed his job. "You never knew who could walk into the office, and it was good to be able to help people. The job taught me discipline, respect, caring, people skills and a new language," he says.
He is going to miss the work, especially his clients and overcoming the challenges to help them, which often came down to knowing their language. "I believe we must encourage and not discourage each other to speak one another's language. I learnt Xhosa only by listening to the clients in the office as I realised it would help me to do my work better and faster."
He thanks the Minister of Home Affairs, the department and all his colleagues. His parting message to clients is a humble one. "If there is anyone who feels that I have disrespected them or promised to call back but did not, I would like to apologise. Please believe that I tried my best."
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