Alex Hepple

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Alexander Hepple
Leader of the South African Labour Party
In office
Preceded byJohn Christie
Succeeded bynone
Personal details
Born28 August 1904
La Rochelle, South Africa
Died16 November 1983 (age 79)
Canterbury, England
NationalitySouth African, British
Political partyLabour

Alexander (Alex) Hepple (28 August 1904 – 16 November 1983) was a trade unionist, politician, anti-apartheid activist and author and was the last leader of the original South African Labour Party.

Hepple was born in La Rochelle, a suburb of Johannesburg to Thomas and Alice Hepple, founding members of the South African Labour Party in 1908. His father immigrated to South Africa from Sunderland in the north-east of England and was a shop steward of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and a leader during its strike action in 1913.[1]

Alex Hepple was a democratic socialist and anti-fascist who was an activist from an early age. He was elected to the Transvaal Province's provincial council in 1943 as a Labour Party MLA and then as a Labour Member of Parliament in the House of Assembly of South Africa in the 1948 and 1953 general elections.[1]

Hepple was leader of the South African Labour Party from 1953 to 1958 and moved it towards liberal policies on race in opposition to the apartheid National Party government. He also founded and chaired the anti-apartheid Treason Trial Defence Fund from 1956 to 1961 and chaired the South African Defence and Aid Fund from 1960 to 1964. However, the white working class electorate that had supported the Labour Party by and large rejected Hepple's policies and repudiated the Labour Party in the 1958 elections in which the Labour Party lost all five of its seats, including Hepple's.[1]

He continued and expanded his activism after losing his parliamentary seat. In 1962, he and his wife, Josephine, re-established the newspaper, Forward only to see it closed by government censorship in 1964. The Hepples then moved to England where they founded the International Defence and Aid Fund's Information Service, an organization that reported on repression and detentions by the apartheid government.[1]

In 1967, Hepple wrote Verwoerd, a biography of South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd who was considered the architect of apartheid. He also wrote South Africa: a political and economic history in 1966 as well as articles and pamphlets on South African politics.[1]

Hepple died in 1983 in exile in Canterbury, England and was celebrated by the African National Congress whose secretary-general Alfred Nzo, wrote that Hepple "was known and loved by the oppressed people of South Africa for his opposition to the draconian apartheid policies of the South African regime."[1]

His son, Bob Hepple, was a South African and British academic and lawyer who was "Nelson Mandela’s legal advisor through his 1962 trial".[2] "Hepple was also one of the original Rivonia Trial accused".[2] Bob Hepple was "knighted in 2004."[3] "He was awarded the South African Order of Luthuli (Gold) in 2014".[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Alex Hepple". South African History Online. South African History Online. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Mandela's legal advisor, Bob Hepple dies after short illness". Nelson Mandela Foundation. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Clare College - Sir Bob Hepple 1934-2015". Clare College. Archived from the original on 2015-08-23. Retrieved August 29, 2015.