The prestigious Selborne College in East London maintains an annual ceremony called ‘The Ceremony of the Key’ – a tradition that was begun in 1924 in honour of the sacrifices of South Africa’s soldiers in the two World Wars. Each year, a member of the incoming Matriculation Class is elected as the Custodian of the Key for one year, and the handing-over ceremony is now a traditional part of the school’s Founders’ Day proceedings. The ceremony symbolises the juxtaposed passage of responsibility and legacy – from old to new.

For Daniel van der Merwe, the Provincial Manager for CEO in the Eastern Cape, and a proud Selborne alumnus, the notion of preserving sound traditional legal principles while embracing innovative ways of assisting members in a changing and volatile environment is both attractive and vital. “The big difference between CEO and other employers’ organisations is the fact that there is genuine care from our staff and structures towards members and employees alike,” he says. “We always strive for what is best for our members, through a mix of old-school ethical standards and inventive legal strategy.”

A big reason for the phenomenal growth in membership at CEO is the approach that was taken by the organisation’s leadership to appoint young, creative legal professionals such as Daniel, who understand the balance of praxis and progress. “I like the fact that CEO is always looking forward and their modern visions make working at CEO feel like you’re part of something that’s always growing and going somewhere great,” Daniel adds. “Our organisation is also clear about its role in the labour industry. For instance, many other employers’ organisations have dual functions in that they attend to internal matters of members as well. CEO is purely there to represent members at the respective forums and relative Councils.”

Daniel grew up in East London and spent much of his childhood on a farm outside the city. He attended primary school at Selborne and then went to Selborne College. He attended university in East London as well as at the University of Fort Hare. “Our family life was small and intimate. For the most part, it was just my mom and me,” he reflects. “My mom was quite strict with me and always taught me to try my best – to do things that stand out from the crowd.” His adoption of this principle of resourcefulness and creativity extends to his hobbies too, as he enjoys fishing, carpentry and building model cars etc.

When it comes to his ambitions beyond his worklife, they’re perfect in their simplicity, and Daniel says. “I would love to be able to purchase an old 4×4 one day and go travelling and adventuring with my family and just go on new adventures all the time.”

Even Daniel’s dreams are the perfect mix of classic and new!