|President of the Senate|
|Prime Minister||P.W. Botha|
|Preceded by||Marais Viljoen|
|Succeeded by||Kobie Coetsee|
|Minister of Justice|
|President||Marais Viljoen |
|Prime Minister||John Vorster |
P. W. Botha
|Preceded by||Petrus Cornelius Pelser|
|Succeeded by||Alwyn Schlebusch|
James Thomas Kruger (20 December 1917 – 9 May 1987) was a South African-born politician who was part of the conservative National Party government which championed apartheid. He rose to the position of Minister of Justice and the Police in the cabinet of Prime Minister John Vorster from 1974 to 1979. He was also President of the Senate from 1979 until 1980, when it was abolished.
Kruger was born in Bethlehem, Orange Free State, South Africa of Welsh parents and was adopted by Afrikaner parents. He obtained his matric from a high school in Ventersdorp and then became a miner. He trained as a surveyor at a gold mine in Brakpan before taking an exam as a mining surveyor. Later he would work as surveyor engineer in Barberton.
Kruger studied part-time for an Afrikaans teaching degree from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and later attended the University of the Witwatersrand where he obtained a law degree in 1954. He began practising as a lawyer in 1955.
In 1962 he became a member of the Transvaal Provincial Council. As National Party candidate, he became a member of the House of Assembly in the South African parliament from 1966. In 1972, Kruger was made a deputy cabinet minister in the police, health and welfare portfolio. In 1974 he was upgraded to a full minister for the police, prisons and justice portfolio. In June 1979, the ceremonial post of President of the Senate but retired in 1980 when the Senate was abolished.
He was responsible for the banning of Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko; when Biko died in police custody, the police claimed that Biko had died during a hunger strike. This account was challenged by the white South African journalist Donald Woods, a personal friend of Biko. Kruger's response to Biko's death was: "Dit laat my koud." ("It leaves me cold."). Kruger later began to recant his earlier statements, while claiming that Biko had authored pamphlets calling for "blood and body in the streets." Woods came under increasing scrutiny for his articles, and finally, following the publication of an article calling on Kruger to resign, he was banned under direct orders from Kruger. Not long afterwards, Woods and his family fled the country for a life of exile in England.
In response to international pressure, the South African government ordered an inquest to investigate the cause of Biko's death; the presiding magistrate concluded that Biko had died of brain damage caused by head injury; however, no one was held responsible for, or prosecuted for, Biko's death. Even so, it was the end of Kruger's career. Having decided that his performance had severely compromised the country's credibility abroad, the government ordered him to resign, and he lost not only his cabinet post, but his membership in the ruling party, as well. In 1982, Kruger joined the Conservative Party of Andries Treurnicht in protest against the racial reforms of the Botha Government. Kruger spent the rest of his life in political obscurity.
- Donald Woods, Biko, p. 404
- "KRUGER James Thomas 1917-1987". Genealogical Society of SA. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
- "James T. Kruger - Munzinger Biographie". www.munzinger.de. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
- "JAMES KRUGER, EX-MINISTER OF S. AFRICA, DIES". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 10 May 1987. Retrieved 23 January 2018.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Saxon, Wolfgang (10 May 1987). "J.T. Kruger, Quelled Soweto Riot". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
- Biko, p. 213
- Donald Woods, South African Dispatches, pp. 167-168
- Harold Scheub, Tere was no lightning, p. 56
- South African Dispatches, p. 179
- South African Dispatches, pp. 185-188
- South African Dispatches, p. 189
- South African Dispatches, pp. xiii-xvi
- South African Dispatches, p. 190
- Biko, p. 404
- Truth And Lies: Stories From The Truth And Reconcilliation Commission In South Africa