Hendrik Verwoerd

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Hendrik Verwoerd
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Full Name: Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
Alias: H.F. Verwoerd
Dr. Verwoerd
Architect of Apartheid
Origin: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Occupation: Prime Minister of South Africa (1958 - 1966)
Skills: Expert in psychology, philosophy and social science
Hobby: Moderating South Africa's government

Creating laws to oppress the nation's majority black population

Goals: Institutionalize racial discrimination and segregation under policy called Apartheid (succeeded)

Become Prime Minister of South Africa (succeeded)
Make South Africa a Republic (succeeded)
Suppress all opposition to Apartheid and National Party rule (succeeded during his lifetime)
Remain in office indefinitely (failed)

Crimes: Forced Removals

Racial Discrimination
Detention without trial of political opponents
State terrorism
Treason (before ascendancy of National Party in 1948)

Type of Villain: Charismatic supremacist

The white man that came to Africa – some to trade, others to bring the gospel – came here to stay. Especially we in this southernmost point of Africa have such claims here that we justly consider it our homeland; we have nowhere else to go. We occupied bare land, and the Bantu likewise came and occupied certain parts for them. The thinking of Africa is to grant those complete rights that we agree with you that all people expect. We believe in providing those rights to the fullest extent in those parts of South Africa that our white ancestors occupied for themselves, but similarly we also believe in equilibrium. We believe namely that equal opportunity must remain at the disposal of the whites who made all this possible.
~ Hendrik Verwoerd, February 1963

Hendrik Verwoerd (September 8th, 1901 - September 6th, 1966) was the Dutch prime minister of South Africa from 1958 to 1966 who organized the laws that lead to the entire apartheid era of the country's history. Birthed in the Netherlands, Hendrik and his family moved to South Africa when he was 2 due to his father's sympathy for the Second Boer War. Studying in a Lutheran school in Cape Town until the family moved to Rhodesia, Hendrik was then taught in Milton High School, where he received the highest English literature grade in the entire colony.

The Verwoerd family returned to South Africa in 1917, where he graduated from school with honors while revered as a smart and intelligent student with a high-photographic memory. Over the next few years he was awarded several scholarships and left home to study abroad in Germany, where he married his girlfriend Elizabeth Schmoobie, and possibly also studied the ideologies of the early Nazi Party, which may have inspired the later apartheid policies he put in place.

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.

Afrikaans politics from 1910 to 1948 were divided between the "liberals" such as Jan Smuts who argued for a reconciliation with Britain vs. the "extremists" who had neither forgotten nor forgiven the British for the Boer War. Both the "liberals" and the "extremists" believed that South Africa was a "white man's country", though the latter were more stridently committed to white supremacy. Verwoerd belonged to the anti-British faction in Afrikaans politics who wanted to keep as much distance as possible from Britain.

In 1936, Verwoerd joined by a group of Stellenbosch University professors protested against the immigration of German Jews to South Africa, who were fleeing Nazi 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 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 World War II in September 1939, Verwoerd protested against South Africa's role in the conflict when the country declared war on Germany, siding with its former colonial power, the United Kingdom.

Goverment Service

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. Daniel François 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.

Verwoerd was elected to the South African 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.[1]

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. Verwoerd wrote the Bantu Education Act, which was to have a deleterious effect on the ability of black South Africans to be educated as Verwoerd himself noted that the purpose of the Bantu Education Act was to ensure that blacks would have only just enough education to work as unskilled laborers (the act barred blacks from all but the most basic education and effectively relegated them to the role of unskilled labour in South Africa.[2]

Prime Minister

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 Johannes Gerhardus 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.

Verwoerd both before and after becoming Prime Minister entrenched Apartheid ensuring that race and skin colour permeated every aspect of South African society. Under the Suppression of Communism Act, several anti-Apartheid parties such as the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) were banned (the act defined Communism as any activity aimed at "aiming to change the political system" meaning that any political activity, even non-Communist, had the potential to be banned by the government). Security legislation was introduced allowing press censorship and detention without trial, effectively turning South Africa into a Police State with only the thin veneer of a Western Style Democracy.

During Apartheid the massive state security apparatus, which was initially aimed at enforcing racial segregation, was turned against all opponents of the regime regardless of skin color. This coupled with the gerrymandering of parliamentary constituencies (the drawing of constituencies on favor of rural areas in 1948 ensured the National Party won the most seats in Parliament despite the then ruling United Party actually winning more votes) had the effect of entrenching the National Party's power and eliminating any chance of any opposition party winning an election. Any dissent against the regime was crushed, often violently, as with the Sharpeville Massacre on 21 March 1960, when blacks protesting peacefully against the hated Pass Laws (requiring them to carry a large passbook at all times or face arrest and imprisonment) were massacred by police; most of the protesters were shot in the back while attempting to run away.

The creation of a republic was one of the National Party's long-term goals since originally coming to power in 1948. 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, Macmillan gave his famous Winds of Change speech, which was interpreted as an end to British support for white rule. This speech, which implicitly criticized apartheid together with the worldwide criticism following the Sharpeville massacre, created a "siege mentality" in South Africa, which Verwoerd seized upon to booster his case for a republic, presenting Elizabeth II as the ruler of a hostile power.[3]

Verwoerd also ensured that South African media gave generous coverage of the breakdown of society in the Congo in the summer of 1960 following independence from Belgium as an example of the sort of "horrors" that allegedly would ensure in South Africa if apartheid was ended, which he then linked to the criticism of apartheid in Britain, arguing the Congolese "horrors" were what people in Britain were intent upon inflicting on white South Africans, fanning the flames of Anglophobia.[4]

In order to bolster support for a republic, the voting age for whites was lowered from 21 to 18, 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 1960 South Africa referendum was accepted by Parliament. [5]In March 1961 at a conference of Commonwealth prime ministers in London, Verwoerd abandoned an attempt to rejoin the Commonwealth, which was necessary given the intention to declare a republic following a resolution jointly sponsored by Jawaharlal Nehru of India and John Diefenbaker of Canada declaring that racism was incompatible with Commonwealth membership.[6] Verwoerd abandoned the application to rejoin the Commonwealth after the Indo-Canadian resolution was accepted mostly by votes from non-white nations (Canada was the only majority white country to vote for the resolution), and stormed out of the conference.[7]

After South Africa became a republic, Verwoerd refused to accept black ambassadors from Commonwealth states.[8] 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,and South Africa was expelled from FIFA in 1976.

In 1961, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld visited South Africa where he could not reach an agreement with Prime Minister Verwoerd.[9] 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.[10] From 1964, the US and UK discontinued their arms trade with South Africa.[11] 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.[12]

In 1964, the Rivonia Treason Trial concluded, with several Anti-Apartheid Activists (including future South African President Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Dennis Goldberg) were found guilty of sabotage for plotting to overthrow the Apartheid regime and were sentenced to Life Imprisonment.

Upon winning prime minister position again in the 1966 election, his government was continuing to develop vehicles and weapons (even nuclear and biological ones)[13]. On September 6th, 1966; shortly after 2:15 PM, Hendrik was stabbed 4 times in the neck and chest by parliament messenger Dmitri Tsafendas, and soon after died upon arrival at Groote Schuur Hospital. Though this ended his reign, his racist rules of apartheid would linger and not be abolished until 3 decades later during the early 1990's. Additionally, towns, roads and facilities once named after him were renamed to further diminish his once heavy influence on the Republic of South Africa.


  1. https://archive.org/details/headsofstatesgov00lent
  2. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-should-south-africa-remember-architect-apartheid-180960449/
  3. Brogan, Patrick (1989). The Fighting Never StoppedVintage Books. p. 88.
  4. Brogan, Patrick (1989). The Fighting Never Stopped Vintage Books. p.92
  5. Osada, Masako (2002). Sanctions and honorary whites: diplomatic policies and economic realities in relations between Japan and South Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 54.
  6. Brogan, Patrick (1989). The Fighting Never StoppedVintage Books. p. 88.
  7. Brogan, Patrick (1989). The Fighting Never StoppedVintage Books. p. 88.
  8. Anthony Sampson, "His Cherubic Smile Seemed To Say, 'It's All So Simple". Life International, 3 October 1966
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/1961/01/24/archives/un-chief-faces-apartheid-snag-hammarskjold-says-he-got-no-accord-on.html
  10. International Labour Office (1985). Special report of the Director-General on the application of the Declaration concerning the policy of "apartheid" of the Republic of South Africa, Volumes 17–22.International Labour Office.
  11. Johnson, Shaun (1989). South Africa: no turning back. Indiana University Press. p. 323.
  12. https://www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/2007/issue3/0307p07.html
  13. Beinart, William (2001). Twentieth-century South Africa. Oxford University Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-19-289318-5.