Dr Dewald Venter: Passionate about Military History
By Nontobeko Moimane 03 May 2022
Dr Dewald Venter (right) handing a copy of his book “South African Armoured Vehicles: A history of innovation and excellence” to the Chairperson of the SA Armour Museum – Col D.I. Romain (left) and General Officer Commanding of the SA Army Armour Formation Brigadier-General P.G. Mangana (middle)
Dr Dewald Venter at a Glance
Dr Dewald Venter is a Senior Lecturer in Tourism within the Department of Tourism and Integrated Communication at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT). He specialises in military, dark and adventure tourism research in field of positive psychology.
His experience lies in undergraduate and post graduate lecturing, administration, curriculum development and research supervision.
Research Focus and projects
Dr Venter sees himself as a tourism niche researcher and prefers odd topics that present a challenge. “To this end, I opened a new research field in the South African context in the form of Military Heritage Tourism,” he explained.
Dr Venter is a published writer and military historian. His first accredited article was published in 2017 as part of a series, with five additional publications thus far (2021) and one more to be completed in 2023. Dr Venter will round off the series with a summative article on military heritage tourism planned for 2024.Currently, he is looking into dark tourism from an African tourism perspective and plans on following a similar route.
To date, his most crucial study speaks to military veterans’ experience visiting battlefields they fought, in Angola. The goal of this study was to help military veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study sought to determine the tourism travel motives of former South African Defense Force veterans with Angolan civil war battlefield experience.
Thematic analysis yielded travel motives of social, camaraderie, friendship, and a sense of family belongingness. Overall, the veterans reported a heightened quality of life from achieving a sense of closure on battlefield experience events that had troubled them for many years.
The findings contribute to the knowledge base on the travel motives of military veterans with psychological trauma from historical conflicts and the psychological recovery they would benefit post-conflict, from visiting as tourists.
Venter cites this this as his best work thus far, with the most potential positive impact on society. His articles have been shared with several prominent psychologists who specialise in PTSD, for consideration in the treatment of patients.
Dr Venter’s recent achievement is being an honorary council member at the South African Armour Museum. Expressing pride and gratitude about his nomination, Dr Venter said: “It’s a great privilege to be part of the armour fraternity and to be entrusted with assisting in the preservation of their and our military heritage.”
Creating Communication platforms through partnerships with Industry
For industry studies (such as events), Dr Venter has a standing arrangement with the industry to compile a report of the research findings. This way, industry partners benefit from the findings and recommendations. Additionally, he is a member of more than 30 military social media groups and uses the medium to share articles that are open sourced for the community to read. In 2018, he shared his findings regarding one such event through e-news.
Most significant and impactful, Dr Venter has worked with several industries who have made use of his research findings and recommendations to implement positive changes. “The SA Armour Museum has entrusted me to implement the findings of my research within their visitor planning strategy and digital media such as their website,” he says proudly. Several military veterans have reached out to him since the completion of the battlefield article.
Advice to young researchers
His advice to young researchers is that they need to find a topic they are passionate about, lay down the foundation of the research series in a literature article; and pursue the elements they have identified as part of a series of articles.
The importance of preserving military equipment as a country
Military museums serve to preserve historical military artefacts, documents, and material for future generations. Museums are becoming a worthy norm of education and must become more inclusive in fostering and supporting intercultural dialogue and participation. According to Dr Venter, museums play an essential role in preserving military history through displays of military artefacts, imparting knowledge and record-keeping for either formal or informal learning.