Former mayor of Rotterdam Bram Peper dead at 82
Bram Peper, former mayor of Rotterdam and former minister of the Interior, has died at 82, his family informed the ANP on Saturday. Politicians across the country remembered him as an integral part of Rotterdam's history.
Peper lived in Rotterdam and died on Saturday afternoon after a short illness in the presence of his loved ones. Prime Minister Mark Rutte reacted "very sadly" to his death, saying, "There will always be a Rotterdam before and after his time."
Peper "made Rotterdam one of the most modern cities in the world," Rutte said. The prime minister praised the former mayor as "a skilled administrator and a good friend" and wishes his loved ones "a lot of strength with this great loss."
Current Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb also praised Peper. "Mayor Peper was a great administrator and thinker in his time. His views on social renewal and the development of the Kop van Zuid, including the construction of the Erasmus Bridge, were progressive and have contributed enormously to the current quality of the city," Aboutaleb said through his spokesperson.
"Unfortunately, he has also suffered from poor health in recent years. And yet he regularly appeared at all kinds of urban activities to show his interest."
The city council of Rotterdam says it experiences Peper's death as a heavy loss for the city. The Rotterdam flag will be flown at half-mast on the city hall from 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Born on Feb. 13, 1940, Peper grew up in a working-class environment in Haarlem. He had a talent for football and once played an international match as a semi-pro with the Dutch amateur team against Switzerland. Peper could have made a career in football, but chose to study. He studied social sciences, economics and sociology in Amsterdam and Oslo. After his studies, Peper developed political ambitions and in the early 1970s he joined the national board of the Labor Party as a policy advisor.
In 1982, Peper became mayor of Rotterdam. Not everyone was happy with his appointment. Many were given a different function at the town hall and Peper did not make himself popular. Incidents involving Peper piled up. For example, he drove his official car on a bus lane and yelled at a police officer who stopped him for it, and he had to kick the habit of excessive drinking. Peper never really became popular among Rotterdammers, but he remained in office until 1998.
After 16 years as mayor, he left for The Hague for a ministerial post in the second Kok Cabinet. But the past continued to haunt the newly appointed Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. As Rotterdam mayor, Peper is said to have lived a lavish lifestyle and committed fraud for 100,000 guilders.
Peper dismissed the stories that came to be known as the "receipt affair" as "nonsense" and "made up nonsense." But as Minister of the Interior, he was in a difficult position. He was responsible for the integrity of civil servants and for supervising the finances of municipalities. In order to defend himself against the allegations, Peper resigned.
Ultimately, the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal ruled that KPMG's investigation into the affair was "inadequate and incorrect". A settlement was reached, but the ex-minister did not receive full rehabilitation. He returned to scientific circles, rather than becoming a political strategist again. In his later years, he taught as a professor at Erasmus University and gave an interview here and there.
Still, he was remembered as an important figure in Rotterdam's development. On Saturday, PvDA party leader Attje Kuiken said Peper "was the foundation of Rotterdam as we know it today and will be missed by us and many Rotterdammers and Dutch."
Reporting by ANP