|6th Prime Minister of South Africa|
2 September 1958 – 6 September 1966
|Monarch||Elizabeth II (1958–1961)|
|President||Charles Robberts Swart (1961–1966)|
|Governor-General||Ernest George Jansen (1958–1959)
Charles Robberts Swart (1959–1961)
|Preceded by||Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom|
|Succeeded by||T. E. Dönges
as Acting Prime Minister
|Born||Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
8 September 1901
|Died||6 September 1966
Cape Town, South Africa
|Political party||National Party|
|Alma mater||University of Hamburg University of Leipzig|
|Occupation||Professor, politician and newspaper editor|
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Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (8 September 1901 – 6 September 1966), also commonly referred to as Dr. Verwoerd, was a South African professor, journalist editor-in-chief, and politician who served as prime minister of South Africa from 1958 until his assassination in 1966. He is regarded as the mastermind behind socially engineering and implementing the racial policies of apartheid, the system of legal racial classification and forced racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Verwoerd played an instrumental role in helping the far right National Party come to power in 1948 serving as their propagandist and political strategist. He eventually rose to party leader in 1958. During his time in office Verwoerd rigidly enforced Apartheid policies through further introducing oppressive laws, which diminished the rights of ordinary individuals, especially black South Africans. He greatly empowered, modernised and enlarged the police, secret police, and army. Under Verwoerd opposition to apartheid was heavily repressed, with tens of thousands of people being detained and imprisoned, thousands exiled and assaulted, and hundreds tortured and killed. Verwoerd was a far right authoritarian leader and an Afrikaner nationalist. He was a strong advocate of the Afrikaner volk, language, culture, and Christian religion. He held the belief that white control over South Africa could only continue if the races lived apart. He survived an assassination attempt in 1960, succumbing to a subsequent one in 1966.
Prior to entering politics, Verwoerd was regarded as a brilliant social science scholar at Stellenbosch University. He completed his undergraduate studies magna cum laude majoring in: sociology, psychology, and philosophy. Verwoerd, continued his studies completing his Masters and Doctorate in both social psychology and philosophy. As a result of his impressive academic performance, he received a post-doctoral scholarship from the University of Oxford, but turned it down and continued his research in the fields of sociology and psychology at various German universities including Hamburg, Leipzig, and Berlin. Upon his return to South Africa, he was appointed professor of Applied Psychology at Stellenbosch University at the age of 26. He was then later appointed as head of the sociology department in 1933.
Verwoerd was prime minister during the establishment of the Republic of South Africa in 1961, thereby fulfilling the Afrikaner dream of an independent republic for South Africans. During his tenure as prime minister, anti-apartheid movements such as the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) were banned, and the Rivonia Trial, which prosecuted ANC leaders, was held. His term ended with his assassination on 6 September 1966 by Dimitri Tsafendas.
Many major roads, places and facilities in cities and towns of South Africa were named after Verwoerd; in post-apartheid South Africa, most of these references to the creator of apartheid have been renamed. Famous examples include H. F. Verwoerd Airport in Port Elizabeth, renamed Port Elizabeth Airport, the Verwoerd Dam in the Free State, now the Gariep Dam, H. F. Verwoerd Academic Hospital in Pretoria, now Steve Biko Hospital, and the town of Verwoerdburg, now Centurion.
Born in the Netherlands, Verwoerd is South Africa's only foreign-born prime minister. He was the second child of Anje Strik and Wilhelmus Johannes Verwoerd; he had an elder brother named Leendert and a younger sister named Lucie. His father was a shopkeeper and a deeply religious man who decided to move his family to South Africa in 1903 because of his sympathy towards the Afrikaner nation in the wake of the Second Boer War.
Verwoerd went to a Lutheran primary school in Wynberg, a suburb of Cape Town. By the end of 1912 the Verwoerd family moved to Bulawayo, in what was then Rhodesia, where his father became an assistant evangelist in the Dutch Reformed Church. Hendrik Verwoerd attended Milton High School where he was awarded the Beit Scholarship, established through the generosity of the diamond magnate and financier Alfred Beit. Verwoerd received the top marks for English literature in the whole of Rhodesia.
In 1917 the family moved back to South Africa because the congregation in Bulawayo appointed a second minister of religion. His father took up a position in the church in Brandfort, Orange Free State. Due to the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic, the younger Verwoerd only sat for his matriculation exams in February 1919, achieving first position in the Orange Free State and fifth in South Africa.
After his schooling, he proceeded to study theology at the University of Stellenbosch. He was regarded as a brilliant student and known to possess a nearely photographic memory. He was also a member of a debating club as well as a hiking club and participated in theatre productions. In 1921 he graduated with honours (BA).
He applied for admission to the Theology School. However, he was required to submit a reference from the minister of religion from his home town, Brandfort, on his suitability for such studies. Since the latter did not know him personally, but the university insisted that he should first recommend Verwoerd, the latter withdrew his application for admission. He then continued to study psychology and philosophy. He was awarded a master's degree cum laude the next year. During this time he also served on the students' council together with Betsie Schoombie, later his wife, and was its president in 1923. He completed his doctorate in 1924, also cum laude. The title of his thesis was "Thought Processes and the Problem of Values"
Verwoerd was awarded two scholarships for further post-doctoral studies abroad—one by the Abe Bailey Trust to study at the University of Oxford, England, and another one to continue his studies in Germany. He opted for the latter, although it was not financially as generous, because he wanted to study under a number of famous German professors of the time. Verwoerd left for Germany in 1926 and proceeded to study psychology at the universities of Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig each for one semester. In Hamburg he studied under William Stern, in Berlin under Wolfgang Köhler and Otto Lipmann, and in Leipzig under Felix Krueger. Most of these professors were not allowed to teach anymore once the Nazis came to power in 1933. Claims that Verwoerd studied eugenics during his German sojourn and later based his apartheid policy on Nazi ideology, are still in the process of being evaluated by scholars. Critics contend that eugenics was usually taught at medical faculties during this period. Christoph Marx asserts that Verwoerd kept a conspicuous distance from eugenic theories and racist social technologies, emphasising environmental influences rather than hereditary abilities.
Verwoerd's fiancee, Betsie Schoombie, joined him in Germany and they were married in Hamburg on 7 January 1927. Later that year, he continued his studies in the UK and then proceeded to the United States. His lecture notes and memoranda at Stellenbosch University stressed that there were no biological differences between the big racial groups, and concluded that "this was not really a factor in the development of a higher social civilisation by the Caucasians."
He published a number of works dating back to his time in Germany:
- "A method for the experimental production of emotions" (1926)
- "'n Bydrae tot die metodiek en probleemstelling vir die psigologiese ondersoek van koerante-advert" ("A contribution on the psychological methodology of newspaper advertisement") (1928)
- "The distribution of 'attention' and its testing" (1928)
- "Effects of fatigue on the distribution of attention" (1928)
- "A contribution to the experimental investigation of testimony" (1929?)
- "Oor die opstel van objektiewe persoonlikheidsbepalingskemas" ("Objective criteria to determine personality types") (1930?)
- "Oor die persoonlikheid van die mens en die beskrywing daarvan" ("On the human personality and the description thereof") (1930?)
Return to South Africa
Verwoerd returned with his wife to South Africa in 1928 and was appointed to the chair of Applied Psychology and Psycho Technique at the University of Stellenbosch where, six years later, he became Professor of Sociology and Social Work. During the Great Depression, Verwoerd became active in social work among poor white South Africans. He devoted much attention to welfare work and was often consulted by welfare organisations, while he served on numerous committees.
Some time after the Nazis came to power in Germany, Verwoerd drew fire by speaking out against the arrival of German Jews to South Africa fleeing persecution. His efforts in the field of national welfare drew him into politics and in 1936 he was offered the first editorship of Die Transvaler, a position which he took up in 1937, with the added responsibility of helping to rebuild the National Party of South Africa (NP) in the Transvaal. Die Transvaler was a publication which supported the aspirations of Afrikaner nationalism, agricultural and labour rights. Combining republicanism, populism and protectionism, the paper helped "solidify the sentiments of most South Africans, that changes to the socio-economic system were vitally needed". With the start of the Second World War in September 1939, Verwoerd generated even more controversy when he protested against South Africa's role in the conflict when it declared war on Germany and sided with its former colonial power, the United Kingdom.
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The South African general election of 1948 was held on 26 May 1948 and saw the Nationalist Party together with the Afrikaner Party winning the general elections. Malan's Herenigde Nasionale Party (HNP) concluded an election pact with the Afrikaner Party in 1947. They won the elections with a very narrow majority of five seats in Parliament, although they only got 40 percent of the voter support. This was due to the loaded constituencies in cities, which was to the advantage of rural constituencies. The nine Afrikaner Party MPs thus made it possible for Malan's HNP to form a coalition government with the Afrikaner Party of Klasie Havenga. The two parties amalgamated in 1951 as the National Party although Havenga was not comfortable with NP policy to remove coloured voters from the common voters' roll.
Running on the platform of self-determination and apartheid as it was termed for the first time, Prime Minister Daniel Malan and his party benefited from their support in the rural electorates, defeating General Jan Christiaan Smuts and his United Party. General Smuts lost his own seat of Standerton. Most party leaders agreed that the nationalist policies were responsible for the National Party's victory. To further cement their nationalist policies, Herenigde Nasionale Party leader Daniel Malan called for stricter enforcement of job reservation protecting the rights of the White working class, and the rights of White workers to organise their own labour unions outside of company control.
Hendrik Verwoerd was elected to the Senate later that year, and became the minister of native affairs under Prime Minister Malan in 1950, until his appointment as prime minister in 1958. In that position, he helped to implement the Nationalist Party's programme.
Among the laws which were drawn and enacted during Verwoerd's time as minister for native affairs were the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act in 1950, the Pass Laws Act of 1952 and the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953.
Prime Minister Daniel Malan announced his retirement from politics following the National Party's success in the elections of 1953. In the succession debate that followed Malan's retirement in 1954, N. C. Havenga, and J. G. Strijdom were potential successors. The Young Turks of the Transvaal got the upper hand and thus J. G. Strijdom was elected as the new leader of the National Party, who succeeded Malan as Prime Minister.
Verwoerd gradually gained popularity with the Afrikaner electorate and continued to expand his political support. With his overwhelming constituency victory in the 1958 election and the death shortly thereafter of Prime Minister J. G. Strijdom, Verwoerd was nominated together with Eben Dönges and C. R. Swart from the Free State as candidates to head the party. Verwoerd got the most votes in the second round and thus succeeded Strijdom as Prime Minister.
Hendrik Verwoerd is often called the "Architect of Apartheid" for his role in shaping the implementation of apartheid policy when he was minister of native affairs and then prime minister. Verwoerd once described apartheid as a "policy of good neighbourliness".
Afrikaner nationalism was skilfully mobilised by leaders in the theological, political, cultural, economic, agricultural and industrial sectors as well as in government service. A strategy of massive economic development was introduced to make South Africa less dependent on the UK and to create thousands of job opportunities.
In 1961, dismissing an Israeli vote against South African apartheid at the United Nations, Verwoerd famously said, "Israel is not consistent in its new anti-apartheid attitude ... they took Israel away from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years. In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state." According to Benjamin Pogrund, this statement was not an expression of admiration for Israel but an attempt to warn and draw support from South African Jews, whom he believed could pressure Israel to end its friendly relations with other African nations. Verwoerd had perviously objected to Jewish immigration to South Africa.
Verwoerd felt that the political situation, that had evolved over the previous century under British rule in South Africa, called for reform.
Under the Premiership of Verwoerd, the following legislative acts relating to apartheid were introduced:
- Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act (1959)
- This law laid the cornerstone for the classification of black South Africans into eight ethnic groups and their allocation to 'homelands'.
- Bantu Investment Corporation Act (1959)
- A law that offered financial incentives for industrial corporations to transfer their capital from White South Africa to the Black Homelands.
- Extension of University Education Act (1959)
- Legislation putting an end to black students attending white universities and creating separate tertiary institutions for the different races.
- Coloured Persons Communal Reserves Act, Act No 3 of 1961
- Preservation of Coloured Areas Act, Act No 31 of 1961
In January 1960, Verwoerd announced that a referendum would be called to determine the republican issue, the objective being a republic within the Commonwealth. Two weeks later, Harold Macmillan, then British Prime Minister, visited South Africa. In an address to both Houses of Parliament he gave his famous Winds of Change speech, which was interpreted as an end to British support for White rule.
In order to bolster support for a republic, the voting age for whites was lowered from twenty-one to eighteen, benefiting younger Afrikaans speakers, who were more likely to favour a republic, and the franchise was extended to whites in South-West Africa, most of whom were German or Afrikaans speakers. This was done even though English South Africans were slightly outnumbered by Afrikaners. The vast majority of English-South Africans were against South Africa becoming a republic and were still loyal to the British Crown.
The referendum was accepted by Parliament and was held on 5 October 1960, in which voters were asked, "Are you in favour of a Republic for the Union?" 52 percent voted 'Yes'. The Republic of South Africa came into existence on 31 May 1961, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging that had brought the Second Boer War to an end in 1902, and the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The last Governor-General, Charles Robberts Swart, took office as the first State President.
After South Africa became a republic, Verwoerd refused to accept black ambassadors from Commonwealth states.
Verwoerd's overt moves to block non-whites from representing South Africa in sports—starting with cricket—started the international movement to ostracise South Africa from international sporting competition. Their last Olympic Games—until the abolition of apartheid—was in 1960, South Africa was expelled from FIFA in 1976, and whenever South African teams did participate in sports, protests and disruptions were the result. When supporters of South Africa decried their exclusion, the usual response was: "Who started it?", in reference to Verwoerd.
On 9 April 1960, Verwoerd opened the Union Exposition in Milner Park, Johannesburg, to mark the jubilee of the Union of South Africa. After Verwoerd delivered his opening address, David Pratt, a rich English businessman and farmer from the Magaliesberg, near Pretoria, attempted to assassinate Verwoerd, firing two shots from a .22 pistol at point-blank range, one bullet perforating Verwoerd's right cheek and the second his right ear.
Colonel G. M. Harrison, president of the Witwatersrand Agricultural Society, leapt up and knocked the pistol from the gunman's hand. After the pistol fell to the floor, Harrison, with the help of Major Carl Richter, the Prime Minister's personal bodyguard, civilians and another policeman overpowered the gunman. He was taken to the Marshall Square police station and later transferred to the Forensic Medical Laboratory due to his peculiar behaviour.
Within minutes of the assassination attempt, Verwoerd—still conscious and blood gushing from his face—was rushed to the nearby Johannesburg Hospital. Two days later, the hospital issued a statement which described his condition as 'indeed satisfactory—further examinations were carried out today and they confirm good expectations. Dr. Verwoerd at present is restful. There is no need for any immediate operation.' Once his condition stabilised, Verwoerd was transferred to a Pretoria Hospital. The neurologists who treated Verwoerd later stated that his escape had been 'absolutely miraculous'. Specialist surgeons were called in to remove the bullets. At first, there was speculation that Verwoerd would lose his hearing and sense of balance, but this was to prove groundless. He returned to public life on 29 May, less than two months after the shooting.
David Pratt was initially held under the emergency regulations, declared on 30 March 1960, nine days after the Sharpeville massacre and shortly after Verwoerd received a death threat with a red note reading, "Today we kill Verwoerd". Pratt appeared for a preliminary hearing in the Johannesburg Magistrates' Court on 20 and 21 July 1960, once it was clear that the attempt was not fatal.
Pratt claimed he had been shooting 'the epitome of apartheid'. However, in his defence, he stated he only wanted to injure, not kill, Verwoerd. The court accepted the medical reports submitted to it by five different psychiatrists, all of which confirmed that Pratt lacked legal capacity and could not be held criminally liable for having shot the prime minister. On 26 September 1960, he was committed to a mental hospital in Bloemfontein. On 1 October 1961, his 53rd birthday, he committed suicide, shortly before parole was to be considered.
Solidifying the system
In 1961, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld visited South Africa where he could not reach an agreement with Prime Minister Verwoerd. On 6 November 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, condemning South African apartheid policies. On 7 August 1963, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 181 calling for a voluntary arms embargo against South Africa, and in the same year, a Special Committee Against Apartheid was established to encourage and oversee plans of action against the authorities. From 1964, the US and UK discontinued their arms trade with South Africa. Economic sanctions against South Africa were also frequently debated in the UN as an effective way of putting pressure on the apartheid government. In 1962, the UN General Assembly requested that its members sever political, fiscal and transportation ties with South Africa.
1966 election and assassination
The National Party under Verwoerd won the 1966 general election. During this period, the National Party government continued to foster the development of a military industrial complex, that successfully pioneered developments in native armaments manufacturing, including aircraft, small arms, armoured vehicles, and even nuclear and biological weapons.
Three days before his death, Verwoerd had held talks with the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Chief Leabua Jonathan, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Following the meeting, a joint communique was issued by the two governments with special emphasis on "co-operation without interference in each others' internal affairs".
On 6 September 1966, Verwoerd was assassinated in Cape Town, shortly after entering the House of Assembly at 14:15. A uniformed parliamentary messenger named Dimitri Tsafendas stabbed Verwoerd in the neck and chest four times before being subdued by other members of the Assembly. Four members of Parliament who were also trained doctors rushed to the aid of Verwoerd and started administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Verwoerd was rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital, but was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Tsafendas escaped the death penalty on the grounds of insanity. Judge Andries Beyers ordered Tsafendas to be imprisoned indefinitely at the "State President's pleasure"; he died aged 81 still in detention.
Verwoerd's state funeral, attended by a quarter of a million people (almost entirely white), was held in Pretoria on 10 September 1966, during which his South African flag-draped casket was laid on an artillery carriage towed by a military truck. He was buried in the Heroes' Acre.
The town of Orania in the Northern Cape province houses the Verwoerd collection—memorabilia collected during Verwoerd’s lifetime which is now on display in the house where his widow lived for the last years before her death in 2000 at the age of 98.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd.|
- H. F. Verwoerd photographed with D. F. Malan in 1954
- Video of H. Verwoerd's failed assassination in 1960
- BBC TV program on his death
Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom
|Prime Minister of South Africa
Balthazar Johannes Vorster