50th Anniversary: Death of Verwoerd

Thembile Ndabeni

Last year on 6th September marked the 50th anniversary of the most Apartheid Architect, Hendrik Frensch Verwoed.

Nothing said and done what, okay!

But doesn’t the nation deserve to know, if yes, how?

Who was he and what were supposed to make of that?

Verwoed went to Germany to study Nazism in order to build the Apartheid Policy and System. He wanted to make sure the system is continued in order to enhance master-class race (White supremacism), and secondly he wanted to give it a face as if it accommodated everybody including Black people, so that it can be accepted both internally and worldwide.

In reality the system dictated that Whites were legitimate citizens and Blacks were servants and those from the rural areas were treated like visitors. They had to go through ‘legal channels’, documentation, when they ‘visited’ South Africa, the white man’s country. In fact they were allowed to ‘visit’ when their services were required, that is for work purpose.

The apartheid regime created several enclaves called Bantustans for black people. The architect in the creation of the Bantustan was Verwoed. According to him, everything had to be tailored to suit the Bantus (term preferred to Blacks).

Training and salaries of Bantu Teachers had to correspond with the fact that they served Bantus (less humans in South Africa). That resulted in dramatic drop of trained Black teachers. This is after they took away Blacks from Royal Reader, the education system from the English.

This was the source of his statement; “there is no need to teach a Native child Mathematics because there is nothing he is going to do with it. He is running after livestock”. He adopted this attitude when he was Minister of Native Affairs, the department responsible for Africans’ education.

Verwoed’s attitude towards Blacks generally culminated in the consolidation of the pass book. Verwoerd’s two–stream policy worked to a certain extent. He managed to win over Whites even those who were sceptical of the Apartheid policy.

Especially the English since there was an ongoing “Cold War” that culminated from James Raid to the Anglo-Boer War (South African War). He did that (Apartheid) by declaring his preparedness to guide Blacks to “self-determination”. That would happen after he considered them ready for such a step.

Therefore he started his vendetta against Africans as a Minister and then later as a prime minister.

Verwoed as Prime Minister: worst actions:

Shaprville/Langa Massacre:

• About 69 people and 180 were injured when they marched peacefully against the passbook in 21 1960;
• Crowned the above by outlawing both the PAC and the ANC shortly after Sharpville/Langa Massacre, 08 April 1960;
• House arrest of the peaceful Luthuli who had to wait for the lifting of his restriction order to go to receive his Nobel Peace Prize in 1961;
• In 31 May 1961, he defied the Common Wealth of Nations and the International Community and made South Africa a “Whites Republic”;
• The Rivonial Trial of 1963-1964 led to Mandela and the rest’s life sentence and were nearly hanged;
• 1 October 1963 – sentencing to death of four members of Poqo;
• 1 November 1963- another execution of people in connection with Poqo.
• In November 1964 – First political hanging from the ANC: Vuyisile Mini, Zinakile Mkaba and Wilton Kayingo.

On the international front he was lucky that the global community itself was dominated and controlled by conservative racist Whites. These were countries like the USA and Great Britain. However, internally not all whites bought into the system especially the clever and educated, and those who were not pseudo-Christians like Bram Fischer, Frederick John Harris, Joe Slovo, Max Gordon, Helen Joseph, Helen Suzman, and reverend Trevor Huddleson. These were some of the whites that became part of the liberation struggle.

Of utmost importance for the young generation and generations to come is to know fully and truthfully about people like him. The fact of the matter he was one of the worst if not the worst Apartheid leader.

His administration presided over the first killing of black people in 1960, marching peacefully against the document the government created to degrade and deprive the natives.

The black leadership was treated with disdain with Chief Albert Luthuli denied to attend the ceremony where he was to receive the Nobel Peace Laureate. In fact it was the action of his administration after the Sharpville/Langa Massacre that led to the international community to declare apartheid as “crime against humanity”. Imagine if he succeeded in crowning it by successfully justifying it to the international community!

They would have continued with their ruthless repression against people who were not their colour in general especially the black people. We would have been slaves the rest of our lives. The white people and their generations to come would be masters right through until the day we don’t know.

We would have relied on the change of their heart if that would have happened. A testimony to that effect is how the majority is still now as was before. Currently in some “Model C” schools black children are degraded, humiliated, and traumatised by white teachers in front of white kids who also join the tune and nothing their parents say. It’s worse this sometimes happen on the lap presiding the one of the final exam.

Do they disorientate and traumatise them not to pass the exam or perform poor so that the white ones pass with flying colours? Then that would in a way justify what Verwoed said about a Native/African/Black child, that he/she is not fit enough for education.

The first attempt to kill Verwoed was in 1960 by David Pratt. Pratt said he was not shooting at him but at Apartheid. In 1966 he was murdered right in Parliament, something that had remained a mystery for years, and obviously leaves much to be desired. How an attempt could be made at the life of a prime minister and manipulator like him and worse be killed by an ordinary person.

Why was it easy for him to be killed? Conspiracy theory, can it be applied? Does it fit?

Whether it’s applicable or not, when mafias double-cross each other doesn’t necessarily mean that the other has a changed heart, against their evil common practice.

They might fight over power not necessarily over change of heart/ practice/ ideology/system.

  • Thembile Ndabeni is a freelance writer, researcher and commentator. He holds Master’s degree in South African politics and political economy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.