Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd

Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd

Infobox Politician

name = Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
width = 150px
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office = Prime Minister of South Africa
term_start = 2 September 1958
term_end = 6 September 1966
predecessor = Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom
successor = Balthazar Johannes Vorster
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majority =
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birth_date = Birth date|1901|9|8
birth_place = Amsterdam, Netherlands
death_date = death date and age|df=yes|1966|9|6|1901|9|8
death_place = Cape Town, South Africa
party = National Party
relations =
spouse = Betsie Schoombie
civil partner =
children =
residence =
occupation =
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website =
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Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (Amsterdam, 8 September 1901 – Cape Town, 6 September 1966) was Prime Minister of South Africa from 1958 until his assassination in 1966. Unlike his predecessors, Verwoerd was not born in South Africa, but immigrated at age two with his parents from the Netherlands.

A polarizing figure, he is considered to be the primary architect of apartheid (the foundations of which were laid earlier), and was Prime Minister during the Sharpeville Massacre, the banning of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress, and the Rivonia Trial. He also presided over the establishment of a republic through a referendum.

Numerous major roads in towns and cities in South Africa are named after Verwoerd, although almost all of them have now been renamed. The Gariep Dam in the Free State, and Port Elizabeth Airport in the eastern Cape were formerly named H. F. Verwoerd, as was the town of "Verwoerdburg" (now Centurion) and "H.F. Verwoerd Hospital" (now Pretoria Academic Hospital). Hendrik Verwoerd Drive, in Randburg, was renamed Bram Fischer Drive at the end of September 2007.

In a controversial 2004 poll by the South African Broadcasting Corporation that asked South Africans to name the top 100 South Africans of all time, he was voted 19th.


Verwoerd went to school at Wynberg. In 1913, the family moved to Bulawayo, part of then-Rhodesia, where he attended the Milton High School. In 1917, the family moved again, this time to Brandfort in the Orange Free State. Due to the worldwide spanish flu epidemic, Verwoerd only sat for his matriculation exams in February 1919.

Directly afterwards, he took up his studies at the University of Stellenbosch. He excelled as a student, completing his studies with honours. Verwoerd completed his Master's degree in 1922, and his doctorate in 1924.

Verwoerd left for Germany after the completion of his doctoral studies in 1925, and stayed there during 1926 while visiting the Universities of Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig. His later critics have at times suggested that this coincided with the rise of German National Socialism in the 1930s, however this visit predated it by a number of years. During this visit, he might have met with Eugen Fischer, but even at this stage, social-Darwinism was not the focus of Verwoerd's research. He published a number of works dating back to that time, which are all still available at the library of the University of Stellenbosch:

# A method for the experimental production of emotions (1926)
# "'n Bydrae tot die metodiek en probleemstelling vir die psigologiese ondersoek van koerante-advert" (1928) ("A contribution on the psychological methodology of newspaper advertisement")
# 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" (1930?) ("Objective criteria to determine personality types")
# "Oor die persoonlikheid van die mens en die beskrywing daarvan" (1930?) ("On the human personality and the description thereof")

His fiancee, Betsie Schoombie, joined him in Germany and they were subsequently married on 7 January 1927. Later that year, he continued his studies in the United Kingdom and then in the United States. Millar, who did an in-depth study on the early career of Verwoerd, concluded that there is no evidence that Verwoerd studied racial ideology of the National Socialists in Germany. He studied instead American Sociology methodology. Verwoerd's admiration of the American doctrine of "separate but equal" cannot be equated with the racial ideology of the National Socialists. Instead, his lecture notes and memoranda at Stellenbosch 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 civilization by the Caucausians." [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20030502093719/http://www.hsf.org.za/focus20/focus20holo.html Patrick Laurence. Playing the Nazi card. December 2000.] ]

Return to South Africa

He returned with his wife to South Africa, and became a professor of psychology at the University of Stellenbosch in 1928. He also became actively involved with politics and the National Party, becoming editor of its newspaper "Die Transvaler" in 1937. From this position, Verwoerd had a mouthpiece from which to propagate his opinions on Afrikaner nationalism, Afrikaner Farmer and Labor rights, and the evils of the British capitalist system. Combining a synthesis of 18th century republicanism, 19th century populism, and 20th century protectionism, the paper helped solidify the sentiments of most of the Afrikaner and even English speaking classes in South Africa that changes to the socio-economic system were vitally needed.cite book |last=Lentz |first=Harris M., III|title="Heads of States and Governments"|year=1994|publisher= McFarland & Company, Inc.|location=Jefferson, NC|isbn=0899509266|pages=451-452]

Government service

The South African general election of 1948 was held on the 26 May 1948 and saw the Nationalist Party win the general election. Running on this platform of apartheid, as it was termed for the first time, Malan and his party benefited from their support in the rural electorates, defeating Smuts and his United Party. Smuts even lost his own seat of Standerton. Most party leaders agreed that Verwoerd's paper and the incipient apartheid policy were responsible. To further cement their nationalist policies, Herenigde Nasionale Party leader DF Malan called for the prohibition of mixed marriages, for the banning of company run black trade unions, for stricter enforcement of job reservation for the white working classes, and the right of white workers to organize their own labor unions outside of company control.

Despite the fact that his party was successful in the elections, Verwoerd himself lost his election for a seat representing an urban area in the Parliament of South Africa. He was however elected to the Senate of South Africa later that year, and became the minister of native affairs under Prime Minister Daniel Malan in 1950. In that position, he helped to implement the Nationalist Party's long held apartheid policy regarding use of cheap African labor.

Architect of apartheid

Verwoerd is called the “Architect of Apartheid” [ [http://www.suedafrika.net/history/eh_apart2.htm The Apartheid Era (Part 2) - Brief History of South Africa ] ] for his role in shaping the implementation of apartheid policy when he was Minister of Native Affairs during the early 1950s, describing it as a "policy of good neighbourliness". [ [http://ccms.ukzn.ac.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=320&Itemid=44 Culture, Communication and Media Studies - Freedom Square-Back to the Future ] ] While the apartheid program drew upon many existing laws that restricted the black Bantu African nationals' mobility and deprived them of access to the white South African nationals' society, it was Verwoerd who elaborated apartheid's unique socio-economic policy innovations.

His initial policies were aimed at alleviating the declining working class standards of the country. Although South Africa had the most advanced economy in Africa, its economic condition had stagnated during much of the 20th century. Although massive amounts of foreign investment were put into South Africa during British rule, most of this was directed at mining extraction. Prior to World War II, the debates in domestic policy had centered upon increasing South Africa's industrial and crafts sector. During the Great Depression, large numbers of Black Bantu Nationals were brought in to break up the South African Labour unions in the mining area which improverished the skilled working class of mostly Afrikaner South Africans. Verwoerd blamed multinationals using cheap Bantu labour for this situation and immediately implemented policies increasing minimum wages for all races, increasing the quota of native South Africans in manufacturing and mining and ended the use of importing non-South African Bantu nationals from the tribal areas.

Particularly important in this regard was the policy of Separate Development. This policy restored strict separation between the South African and Bantu national areas. It went beyond British colonial policies of residential segregation to insist that Africans had to return to their "Native Reserves." Additionally, in a policy elaboration past what existed in Afrikaner Republics prior to British conquests, the native reserves were under the Separate Development plan, become nominally independent "Homelands". Verwoerd declared that the blueprint of this policy was the Indian Removal Reservation plan of the United States which he had studied.


Malan announced his retirement from politics following the successful elections of 1953. But in the succession-battle that accompanied his retirement, his anointed heirs, N.C. Havenga and E. Donges were defeated and Verwoerd lacked the political support within the party to successfully challenge J.G. Strijdom. In the party leadership election that followed J.G. Strijdom was made leader and became Prime Minister.

Nonetheless, Verwoerd was now the most popular person in the Afrikaner electorate and continued to expand his political support becoming the number two man in the party. With his overwhelming constituency victory in 1958 election and the death shortly thereafter of Party leader J.G. Strijdom, Verwoerd was appointed by the Governor-General to organize a government as prime minister.

Under the ministry of Verwoerd the following principal "Apartheid acts" were introduced:
*"The Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act" (1959)
**This law abolished black representation in Parliament and laid the cornerstone for the setup of the self-government in the 'homelands', designated lands for black people where they could have a vote. The aim was that these homelands would eventually become independent as sovereign domestic nations separate from the "white" South Africa. (In practice, the South African government exercised a strong influence then over these separate states even after some of them became 'independent'.)
*"Bantu Investment Corporation Act" (1959)
** This law set up a mechanism to transfer capital from large multinational corporations who held 50% of the country's assets and employed 75% of the Bantu population to the Bantu nations for development.
*"The Extension of University Education Act" (1959)
**This law created universities for blacks, coloureds and Indians which until then were extremely limited in attending higher education.
*"Physical Planning and Utilization of Resources Act" (1967)
**This law allowed the government to stop industrial development in 'white' cities and re-direct such development to homeland border areas. The aim was to speed up the relocation of blacks to the homelands by relocating jobs to homeland areas.

A republic

The creation of a republic was one of the National Party's long-term goals since originally coming to power in 1948; and Verwoerd's antipathy towards the British Crown was long standing; as editor of the newspaper "Die Transvaler", he ignored the British Royal Family's tour of South Africa in 1947, with one news item only referring in passing to 'congestion caused by some visitors from overseas'.

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, Macmillan, then British Prime Minister, visited South Africa. In an address to both Houses of Parliament he made 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.

The referendum passed Parliament and was successfully put for a vote on 5 October 1960 in which white voters were asked "Do you support a republic for the Union?" — 52 percent voted 'Yes'. On 31 May 1961 South Africa officially became a republic.

Crisis and assassination attempt

Armed with MacMillan's speech, most of the intellectual leaders of the Black Bantu nationals began demonstrating against South Africa's apartheid policies and demanding an end to their restrictions into moving to South African areas. Finally, on 21 March 1960, there was a large demonstration of members of the Pan Africanist Congress, led by Mike Nyakane Tsolo, at Sharpeville Township. The demonstrators invited the police to arrest them but after initial arrests the police responded with heavy force killing 69 people in the Sharpeville Massacre. Then on 9 April 1960, Dr Verwoerd opened the Union Exposition on the Witwatersrand to mark the jubilee of the Union of South Africa. Having made his opening speech, he took his seat. Shortly afterwards, a fifty-two year-old farmer, David Pratt, an anti-apartheid activist and supporter of remaining in the Empire, walked up to him and fired two shots into his face. The Prime Minister was rushed to the hospital still alive. There, specialist surgeons were called in to remove the bullets. At first, there was speculation that Dr Verwoerd would lose his hearing and sense of balance, but these fears were to prove groundless. He returned to public life on 29 May, less than two months after the shooting.

Verwoerd persuaded many South Africans that after the first assassination attempt on him, Harold Macmillan's "Winds of Change" speech and international condemnation following the Sharpeville massacre, South Africa would have to go it alone by becoming a republic. Many South Africans of English origin voted for the change believing that South Africa would remain in the Commonwealth, suggesting that there may have been significant numbers of Afrikaners opposed to the change, given that they made up a much larger proportion of the voting population. Verwoerd also managed to persuade them by keeping the system of government almost exactly the same (except that the president would be chosen by both houses). The Republic of South Africa came into existence on 31 May 1961, chosen because it was the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging that had brought the Anglo-Boer War to an end in 1902.

Following India's assumption of republic status, it was agreed by Commonwealth leaders that being a republic was not incompatible with membership, but that a Commonwealth Realm would have to reapply for Commonwealth membership if it became a republic.

At the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers held in London, Verwoerd argued that apartheid was just a matter of good labour policy. However, a number of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, particularly John Diefenbaker of Canada, denounced apartheid and argued that racial equality was a principle of Commonwealth membership. As a result of widespread opposition from the leaders of non-white New Commonwealth countries as well as Old Commonwealth member Canada and the threat that several countries would resign from the Commonwealth if South Africa's application was approved, Verwoerd withdrew South Africa's application to remain a member of the Commonwealth on 15 March 1961. South Africa's membership officially lapsed on 31 May when it officially became a republic.

South Africa's Commonwealth membership was restored in 1994, although it remains a republic.

Solidifying the regime

For the next few years Verwoerd aimed to cementing links between the two white populations. Once republican status was attained, Verwoerd claimed that the only difference now was between those who supported apartheid and those in opposition to it. The ethnic divide would no longer be between Afrikaans and English, but rather white and black. Most Afrikaners supported the notion of white unanimity to ensure their safety. English-speaking whites were divided. Many had voted in opposition to a republic, especially in Natal, where most voted "No". Although most of the conservative English speaking community felt abandoned by MacMillan's speech and embraced the Nationalist Party, the remainder felt apathetic for the new Republic. Later, however, some of them recognised the perceived need for white unity, convinced by the growing trend of decolonisation elsewhere in Africa, which left them apprehensive.

Condemnation by the Commonwealth and United Nations Organisation (UNO) further drove the South Africa away from Great Britain while radicalizing the Black Bantu resistance. Verwoerd encouraged the government to outlaw the ANC and PAC after anti-pass protests and the carnage in the Sharpeville and Langa townships. The government passed laws giving police the authority to arrest people for up to twelve days. The ANC and PAC then chose to add armaments to the struggle and respectively launched martial wings named Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and Poqo, which performed acts of sabotage on tactical state structures. Its first sabotage plans were carried out on 16 December 1961, the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River when the Zulu army as defeated in 1838. Nonetheless, for most of the 1960s South Africa remained stable and resistance domestically was minimal. Most resistance occurred overseas during the remainder of Verwoerd's premiership.

In 1961, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold stopped over in South Africa and subsequently stated that he had been unable to reach 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 regime. From 1964, the US and Britain 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. In reply to this continuous assault on South Africa, Verwoerd had declined to get together and engage in dialogue with leaders such as Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria in 1962 and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia in 1964. Instead, he deepened the nationalist government, increased the security apparatus, and sought to open new relations with other nations in South America, Portugal, Israel, Taiwan, and South Korea.

1966 Elections, new program, and assassination

Finally, in 1966, Verwoerd began making preparations for a new economic plan. Suggestions ranged from nationalization of the multinational corporations, to mercantalistic models such as practiced by Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Additionally, the security regime successfully pioneered developments in native armaments manufacturing including aircraft, small arms, armored vehicles, and even nuclear and biological weapons.

The 1966 South African general election resulted in yet another comprehensive victory for the National Party under Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd. Then On 6 September 1966, an air of expectancy hung over Parliament. Three days earlier, Dr Verwoerd had held historic talks with the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Chief Leabua Johnathon, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. It was the first meeting on South African soil between the premier of South Africa and the leader of a black state. 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. Against this background, the South African Prime Minister was expected to make an important policy statement at the parliamentary session on 6 September. It was expected to deal with comprehensive resettlement of the Bantu Black Nationals and a new economic program which portended nationalization and redistribution of the foreign owned assets in South Africa.

Dr Verwoerd entered the House of Assembly that day at 2.15 p.m. As he made his way to the front bench, he exchanged greetings with those around him. Just as he was taking his seat, a uniformed parliamentary messenger, Dimitri Tsafendas, walked briskly across the floor from the lobby entrance. Without warning, Tsafendas drew a sheath knife from under his clothing. He bent over Dr Verwoerd and raised his right hand high into the air. With his left hand, he plucked off the sheath and then stabbed Dr Verwoerd four times in the chest. Seconds later, a number of Members of Parliament rushed forward and pulled Tsafendas away from the Prime Minister. After a violent struggle, the court messenger was finally subdued. Four Members of Parliament who were medical doctors rushed to the Prime Minister's aid and one gave him the kiss-of-life. Mrs Verwoerd also ran down to the chamber from the wives' gallery. She kissed her husband as the doctors battled to save his life. The Prime Minister was rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital where he was certified dead on arrival.

Tsafendas's motive for killing Verwoerd remains unclear. Tsafendas had a Mozambican mother and, although not racially classified as a "Coloured", he had dark skin. This may have played a role, since he had recently fallen in love with a "Coloured" woman. He had applied for reclassification as "Coloured", since sexual relations between people of different races were illegal under apartheid.

It is also unclear to what degree the murder was a political act. The trial of Tsafendas dealt mainly with the question of whether he was capable of fully understanding the consequences of his actions, and possible motives were never discussed. The attorney general alleged that Tsafendas was a "hired killer", but this was not accepted by Judge Beyers, who ordered Tsafendas to be imprisoned indefinitely at the "pleasure of the State President", earlier Governor-General Charles Robberts Swart. He escaped the death penalty on the grounds of insanity, saying that a large worm in his stomach told him to kill Verwoerd.

After Verwoerd's death, the definite power of apartheid South Africa was split between the prime minister and the State President, though Verwoerd, through his influence had ruled South Africa even after the instatement of the presidency in 1961.

Verwoerd's funeral took place on 10 September 1966.


See also

* Apartheid
* List of South Africans

External links

* [http://about-south-africa.com/html/hendrik_verwoerd.html The architect of Apartheid]
* [http://word.chaos.co.za/2008/03/11/proudly-south-african-2 Verwoerd's appointment with the Queen]

NAME= Verwoerd, Hendrik Frensch
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Former South African Prime Minister
DATE OF BIRTH= 8 September 1901
PLACE OF BIRTH= Amsterdam, Netherlands
DATE OF DEATH= 6 September 1966
PLACE OF DEATH= Cape Town, South Africa

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