The new High Sheriff for Buckinghamshire, Peter Bhupatsingh Kara.
Date: 20 October 2017 By: Anton van Zyl
There’s a new high sheriff in Buckinghamshire and he hails from the Soutpansberg.
Two weeks ago, Peter Bhupatsingh Kara, who was appointed the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in England in April, held his Justice Service marking the start of the judicial year in the company of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, senior judges, members of the judiciary, police, and armed forces, civic dignitaries and voluntary sector representatives.
Many of the older residents of the Soutpansberg will remember the Kara family. They were based not far from the Schoemansdal Environmental Centre, on the Vivo road where Peter grew up. The family ran the Happy Rest Supply Store, which supplied the needs of the local farming community for 31 years until 1969.
The title that Peter will carry for the next year, is one of the oldest positions in Britain. It dates back to Anglo Saxon times when the King’s Reeve, also known as the High Reeve, acted as the royal representative to enforce the King’s interests in a country.
The origin of the word “sheriff” is also connected with the office Peter now holds. According to the website of the Buckinghamshire Sheriff, it dates back to 992 A.D. “when the first shire reeves (in Anglo-Saxon scirgerefa, also meaning guardian) were ordered by the King to collect the onerous ‘Danegeld’ tax, the ransom extracted by the Danes after the defeat of the Saxons at the Second Battle of Maldon on 10th August 991.”
The new sheriffs proved successful tax gatherers, and under the Saxon kings they became the Monarch’s trusted administrators within the shires. “After the Conquest in 1066 the Norman Kings expanded this role, and the Shrievalty remained at the heart of national administration for hundreds of years,” it is stated.
The High Sheriff acted as the (often hated) tax collector for the king. Over centuries, however, this responsibility decreased as a central government started to take over such control. The power to enforce Writs of Court remained vested in the Sheriffs and even today, even though the mechanisms for enforcement have changed, such powers can be called upon.
“The High Sheriffs’ early powers to administer justice within the land were extensive. They could raise the hue and cry after criminals in their counties, and keep the King’s peace by mobilising the posse comitatus, the full military force of the county. Raising the posse comitatus was activated last in 1830 when Oxfordshire's High Sheriff subdued an insurrection against an enclosure award,” it is stated on the website.
The High Sheriff also traditionally had responsibility to provide juries, had powers of arrest, and had the responsibility to organise hangings.
Today, the office fulfils mostly a ceremonial role. The primary function of the High Sheriff is to represent the Royal family in the ceremonial County of Buckinghamshire for all matters relating to the judiciary and the maintenance of law and order.
“Buckinghamshire High Sheriffs are encouraged to undertake duties to help the voluntary and statutory bodies within the County, and they have a unique opportunity to work for the good of their communities,” the website states.
The Zoutpansberger managed to track down the new sheriff last week and ask him about his memories of the Soutpansberg.
Peter fondly recalls Elim Hospital, where he was born, and his school years with great friends in Louis Trichardt. He still remembers the principal, Mr Phillip van der Merwe. “He gave me my first paid job, as part-time secretary to him, after I had completed my standard six there and was studying to complete my matriculation through Damelin College,” he writes.
He remembers life on the farm in Happy Rest, filled with a great sense of adventure, “with the mountain just behind to explore with my air rifle and my trusty Rhodesian Ridgeback, Tiger, as a companion. I still carry the scar of a scorpion bite on the back of my left leg as a memento from those days and remember the excitement and trepidation when Helgard Cronje, our nearest neighbour, took me for my first night hunt.”
Peter also recalls when Spies Dam was being built and the thrill of riding a handcart around Cilliers Rust Siding with Ginger Kobe – “a man whose dignity and strength were an inspiration to me.”. He recalls scary drives through Wyllie's Port before the Verwoerd Tunnels were built, Cinema Louis showing its first Cinemascope movie (with the jingle from Mansuli Jewellers' screen ad ‘you find the girl and we'll find the ring’!), the tragic fire at Khoja's Store, Mr Rasool winning the lottery and the opening of Charlie’s Den, among others.
“On the negative side, there was the constant uncertainty and debate about how the Group Areas Acts would be implemented. I left in 1964 before the upheaval that uprooted people from their historic abodes and places of business, to study and work in England,” he writes.
“But the memory of a sleepy town lodged in a picturesque location with a wonderful micro-climate remains deeply embedded in me and the values I learnt there have stood me in good stead.”
In a professional capacity, Peter is a qualified accountant with a long career in private companies. He currently provides financial support and strategic planning advice to small and medium-sized companies.
He serves on numerous boards and he has been a trustee and chairperson of the board of the Milton Keynes Community Foundation as well as treasurer of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (now Rethink). He has also been involved with local NHS boards as a non-executive director since 1993 and currently is on the boards of the Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group and the East of England Ambulance Trust.
Peter hopes that his year as sheriff of Buckinghamshire will provide opportunities to promote wider discussion on mental health, particularly initiatives focusing on prevention and early intervention.
Peter and his partner, Dolores Ochoa, have three daughters, a son and five grandchildren between them, scattered as far afield as China, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror for over 27 years. He graduated at the the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.
A photo taken at the recent Justice Service event, which was attended by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. In the front, from left to right, are the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (dressed in the black and gold robes), Peter Kara (dressed in the black High Sheriff Court Dress), the Lord Lieutenant for Buckinghamshire Sir Henry Aubrey Fletcher (wearing a hat) and the gentleman next to Sir Henry in the red robes is The Hon Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, a Presider for the South Eastern Circuit.