07 September 2006

Forty years on - assassination of H.F. Verwoerd

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, the Dutchman who was responsible for much of the implementation of the apartheid policy in South Africa, whose passion for linguistic political correctness (though it wasn't called that in his day) changed the language, and gave words like "Bantu" and "homeland" and "own" a stigma that they still haven't fully recovered from.

He could, in fact, be said to have been the architect of apartheid, first as Minister of Native (later Bantu) Affairs, and then, after the death of J.G. Strijdom, as prime minister. He transformed the Department of Native Affairs from a government department into a state within a state that ruled by administrative fiat, and was responsible to no one. The Department of Bantu Administration and Development (as it was later called) removed functions from other government departments and provincial governments, and absorbed them. It took over education, health and welfare services for most South Africans, and dominated their lives for over 40 years.

Perhaps he deserves to be forgotten.

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