Career policeman Frederick “FC” van Wyk is no stranger to tackling criminals, but he put himself to a different test when he defended SA from tourists speaking badly about his country at an embassy stall at the Rugby World Cup.
“And I did it in English,” Van Wyk, a proud son of the Karoo, told News24 on Thursday.
Quick to answer questions in his mother tongue of Afrikaans and only speaking English when he absolutely has to, Van Wyk joked that he had to dig deep into his vocabulary when he stepped in to promote his country at an unmanned embassy stall on his way to watch the Springboks take on New Zealand in their recent World Cup fixture in Japan.
He and his son Matthew, 19, had travelled to Yokohama to catch arguably one of the most anticipated matches, both proudly wearing their green and gold.
The trip was a treat for his son, Van Wyk said, who last year made the Western Province under-18 rugby team and had passed Grade 12 with flying colours.
His immediate family financially covered their international experience.
Van Wyk, a spokesperson for SAPS in the Western Cape, said they had been part of a group of tourists taking part in a fan tour ahead of the game when they approached a number of gazebos where representatives were promoting their home countries.
“I saw a tent marked ‘Embassy of South Africa’ and started walking that way when I heard a tourist in front of us tell another, ‘What did you expect from South Africa?’ When I reached the tent, I saw it was unmanned – nobody was there.”
Refusing to stand by and allow people to “talk a lot of nonsense about us”, Van Wyk stepped inside, took a seat, reached for a stack of publicity pamphlets on a table and started promoting his country.
“I told them about South Africa, where I am truly proud to be from. For over half an hour, I chatted about my own experiences in all the different parts of the country – about Durban, where my wife and I had spent our honeymoon; Johannesburg, where I had done most of my police training; and the Western Cape, with its pristine beaches from Blouberg to Strandfontein, vast range of fauna and flora and our world-famous mountains.”
Matthew, who is studying culinary arts, spoke to tourists about the country’s delicious food, focusing especially on Cape Malay curries and dishes.
“I handed out pamphlets while encouraging them to visit and meet our good people. I even told them to come find me if they ever ended up on this side of the world so that we could share a bottle of wine as I now live in Kuils River, near the vineyards of Stellenbosch.”
And he did it all in what he considers perfect English.
“You know, every day I pray for the angels’ protection. That day, my English angel must have been with me,” Van Wyk joked.
“God really gave me the strength – my ‘is’ and ‘ares’, my ‘was’ and ‘weres’ were on their place.”
Matthew said while they could not reach all the visitors or those who had negative perceptions of SA, he and his dad decided to nevertheless do what they could.
“We are aware of the negative connotations [owing to] the crime in our country, but we are also well aware of the positive things. We are a great nation, and we have so much to offer,” Matthew said.
Spending time with his dad in Japan was awesome, the teenager enthused.
“Everywhere he finds himself, he would always have a great big smile and you would always find him waving at everyone. My mom says my dad is actually the mayor of every place he enters, and I can understand why.”
The Facebook post was never meant to blame or shame anyone, Matthew pointed out.
“It was merely a matter of there being a gap which had to be filled. We decided to step up to the plate and do what had to be done.”
Van Wyk’s proud wife Natasha in a Facebook post told of her husband’s actions.
Over 3 000 people reacted to the post, which was shared over 500 times.
“I [love] this story because it shows that one person can make a difference. He did something that was not his job or his problem. Bless you and your family. You are truly a worthy ambassador of our nation. An amazing example of being a man of honour to your son,” one of the over 800 comments reads.