Open main menu

Hendrik Verwoerd

Prime Minister of South Africa from 1958 until his assassination in 1966
Apartheid means: ‘something of your own’; ... separate development means the kind of growth which one creates by means of own power and for the sake of yourself and your people.

Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (8 September 1901 – 6 September 1966), also commonly referred to as H. F. Verwoerd and Dr. Verwoerd, was a Dutch-born South African politician, sociologist and journalist. As leader of South Africa's National Party he served as the last prime minister of the Union of South Africa from 1958 until 1961. In 1961 he proclaimed the founding of the Republic of South Africa, and continued as its prime minister from 1961 until his assassination in 1966 by Dimitri Tsafendas. Although apartheid existed before Verwoerd took office, his efforts to place it on a firmer legal and theoretical footing, in particular his opposition to even the limited form of integration known as baasskap (boss-ship), have led him to be dubbed the Architect of Apartheid.


  • Die Transvaler is issued with a calling – it comes to serve a volk/people by allowing steadfast and lofty nationalism to resound wherever its voice may reach. From this calling its inspiration will spring. This endeavor will determine its character.
  • Translated from Afrikaans: Die Transvaler kom met 'n roeping – hy kom om 'n volk te dien deur die geluid van troue en verhewe nasionalisme te laat weerklink waar sy stem ook reik. Uit hierdie roeping sal sy besieling spruit, dié strewe sal sy karakter bepaal.
    • Editorial of the Die Transvaler on 1 October 1937, as quoted by N. F. Hefer & G. C. Basson in Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, Pictorial Biography 1901-1966, p. 27. Voortrekkerpers (1966)
  • As Jews presently enjoy a disproportionate share of the wholesale and retail trade, such a balanced distribution can be achieved only by refusing them further trading licenses, until such a time as the other main population groups, such as English- and Afrikaans-speakers, have gained a proportion which (as far as practicable) corresponds to their percentage of the white population. … Of course, the discrimination must disappear as soon as the correct balance (ewewigtige toestand) has been achieved.
  • Genl. Smuts and his followers, without any hesitation, laid all their much-celebrated quest for reconciliation and the creation of one nation of Afrikaans and English speakers on the altar of the British Empire. It is clear that their aim was not to create a truly South African people/volk, but a branch of the English people living in South Africa. And in it Afrikanerdom had to be dissolved. This war crisis was necessary to make that transparent to everyone.
  • Translated from Afrikaans: Genl. Smuts en sy aanhangers het sonder enige weifeling al hul veelgeroemde strewe na versoening en die skepping van een volk uit Afrikaans- en Engelssprekendes op die altaar van die Britse Ryk gelê. Helder staan dit uit dat hul strewe nie was om 'n waarlik Suid-Afrikaanse volk te laat ontstaan nie, maar 'n vertakking van die Engelse volk woonagtig in Suid-Afrika. Daarin moes die Afrikanerdom opgelos word. Hierdie oorlogskrisis was nodig om dit vir almal glashelder te stel.
    • Editorial of the Die Transvaler on 6 September 1939, as quoted by N. F. Hefer & G. C. Basson in Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, Pictorial Biography 1901-1966, p. 30. Voortrekkerpers (1966)
  • Must Bantu and European in future develop as intermixed communities, or as communities separated from one another in so far as this is practically possible? If the reply is ‘intermingled communities’, then the following must be understood. There will be competition and conflict everywhere. So long as the points of contact are still comparatively few, as is the case now, friction and conflict will be few and less evident. The more this intermixing develops, however, the stronger the conflict will become. In such a conflict, the Europeans will, at least for a long time, hold the stronger position, and the Bantu be the defeated party in every phase of the struggle. This must cause to rise in him an increasing sense of resentment and revenge.
  • [The present Government] believes in the supremacy (baasskap) of the European in his sphere, [and] equally in the supremacy (baasskap) of the Bantu in his own sphere. There is thus no policy of oppression here, but one of creating a situation which has never existed for the Bantu; namely, that, taking into consideration their languages, traditions, history and different national communities, they may pass through a development of their own. … The future Bantu towns and cities in the reserves may arise partly in conjunction with Bantu industries of their own in those reserves. In their establishment Europeans must be prepared to help with money and knowledge, in the consciousness that such industries must, as soon as possible, wholly pass over into the hands of the Bantu.
  • The curriculum (to a certain extent) and the practice of teaching, ignoring the policy of segregation or apartheid, could not offer preparation for service within the black community. By simply blindly producing pupils formed on a European mould, the vain expectation was created that they, in spite of the said national policy, would still be able to fill posts in the white community. This is that is meant by the unhealthy creation of white collar ideals and the causing of widespread frustration among the so-called learned natives.
  • 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. Furthermore we consider ourselves part of the Western world, a true white state in Africa, which holds every promise of a complete future for the black man in our midst.
    We consider ourselves indispensable to the white world. If a division were to arise in future – how would South Africa fulfill its best role both in cooperation with the white nations of the world and in befriending the black states of Africa? How can these black states strengthen the arm of those who fight for the civilization we believe in? We are the link. We are white, but we are in Africa. As such it imposes an extraordinary duty on us and we realize it. And if you came here with nothing more than to make it known everywhere that no one can achieve anything by trying to hurt one with whom he differs, but that good can only be born from attempts to do good to others, then your journey as far as this southern frontier was well rewarded.
    • Verwoerd's response (translated from an Afrikaans version) to Harold Macmillan's co-called ‘Winds of Change’ speech in Cape Town on 3 February 1960, as quoted by N. F. Hefer & G. C. Basson in Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, Pictorial Biography 1901-1966, p. 79. Voortrekkerpers (1966)
  • The tendency in Africa for nations to become independent and, at the same time, the need to do justice to all, does not only mean being just to the black man of Africa but also being just to the white man of Africa. They are the people, not only in the Union but throughout major portions of Africa, who brought civilisation here, who made possible the present development of black nationalism by bringing the natives education, by showing them the Western way of life, by bringing to Africa industry and development, by inspiring them with the ideals which Western civilisation has developed for itself.
  • We won't allow anyone to kill us, we won't fall prey to anyone; we shall fight for our existence and we shall stay alive! ... South Africa's future is greater today than its past. The history of South Africa is characterised by crisis upon crisis, but from every crisis a greater triumph was born.
  • Translated from Afrikaans: Ons sal ons nie laat doodmaak nie, ons sal geeneen se slagoffer word nie; ons sal veg vir ons bestaan en ons sal bly lewe! ... Suid-Afrika se toekoms is vandag groter as sy verlede. Die geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika toon een krisis na die ander, maar uit elke krisis is 'n groter triomf gebore.
    • At the Unieskou on 9 April 1960, minutes before David Pratt made an attempt on is life, as quoted by N. F. Hefer & G. C. Basson in Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, Pictorial Biography 1901-1966, p. 80. Voortrekkerpers (1966)
  • There are two ways of obtaining a republic, either by election or by a referendum. Former National Party leaders have promised that the Union's transition to a republic will be subject to ratification by the nation. Therefore, it will now be the case. The heads of white voters who vote will be counted. The government has the constitutional right to decide the issue of a Republic with a majority vote in Parliament – just as the United Party plunged the Union into a war. However, the National Party has voluntarily waived this right and the test will be laid to the general will. However, the National Party will not lie down if they lose this test. They will not stop fighting until South Africa has its own republic.
  • Translated from Afrikaans: Daar is twee maniere om 'n republiek te verkry, naamlik deur middel van 'n verkiesing of deur 'n volkstemming. Voormalige leiers van die Nasionale Party het belowe dat die republiekwording van die Unie op die beslissing van die breë volkswil sal berus. Derhalwe sal dit dan nou ook so geskied. Die koppe van die blanke kiesers wat stem, sal getel word. Die regering het die konstitusionele reg om die kwessie van 'n republiek met 'n meerderheid van stemme in die Parlement te laat beslis – net soos die Verenigde Party die Unie in 'n oorlog gedompel het. Die Nasionale Party het egter vrywillig van hierdie reg afgesien en die toets sal op die breë volkswil gelê word. Die Nasionale Party sal egter nie gaan lê as hulle die toets sou verloor nie. Hulle sal nie ophou met veg voordat Suid-Afrika sy eie republiek het nie.
    • On 26 May 1960 at a large political rally at Meyerton, Transvaal, as quoted by N. F. Hefer & G. C. Basson in Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, Pictorial Biography 1901-1966, p. 83. Voortrekkerpers (1966)
  • We shall not act unfairly in any way. We shall not allow our understanding to let us down. For a leader who has to take care of a volk/people, cannot govern, driven by emotions or vengefulness. It is our task in these heavy times, while the heart often wants to speak, to let understanding dominate; understanding and faith. Carried by faith in God, the government will not be able to govern unfairly. Faith and understanding does not, however, say that we have to act timidly when greater evils may follow. Power is sometimes the best means to get peace.
    • Verwoerd in 1960, as quoted and translated by J. J. Venter in H.F. Verwoerd: Foundational aspects of his thought, Koers 64(4) 1999: 415–442
  • On the eve of the Republic, opponents are now demanding that we, the government, change its colour policy so that they can make more money. ... Some people think we need them and keep a pistol to our head and ask for the forfeiting of certain aspects of our colour policy. We are not for sale. Our colour policy is not for sale.
  • Translated from Afrikaans: Aan die vooraand van die Republiek vra teenstanders nou dat ons, die regering, sy kleurbeleid moet wysig sodat hulle meer geld kan maak. ... Sekere mense dink ons het hulle nodig en hou 'n pistool voor ons kop en vra prysgewing van sekere dele van ons kleurbeleid. Ons is nie te koop nie. Ons kleurbeleid is nie te koop nie.
    • As Prime Minister, as quoted in the Die Transvaler newspaper (4 July 1960)
  • Dear friend,
    The time has drawn near for us all to help decide through a referendum what will become of our country and people in the immediate future. In a Republic we shall be able to give our full attention to what is so vital. It is to create a secure future for the whites, besides fairness to the non-whites as well. Furthermore, the development of prosperity is necessary for everyone. If we do not take this one step now, we ourselves may possibly, experience all the suffering of the whites who are being attacked in, and driven out of, one African territory after the other. You love your country. You love your children. Sixty or more years of life lie ahead of many of them. I plead for their sake; their unity, safety and prosperity. For all these reasons I feel justified in approaching you personally with this urgent appeal. Become by answering „Yes” through your cross on the voting paper, one of the founders of our Republic of South Africa.
    With best wishes, H.F.Verwoerd
  • First part translated from Afrikaans: Geagte vriend(in), Die tyd is nou naby dat ons almal by die volksstemming moet help beslis wat in die onmiddellike toekoms van ons land en volk moet word. In 'n Republiek sal ons saam ons aandag voluit kan gee aan wat so lewensbelangrik is. Dit is om 'n veilige toekoms te skep vir die blankes, gepaard met regverdigheid ook teenoor die nie-blankes. Verder is nodig die uitbou van voorspoed vir almal.
    • In an open letter to the public on 20 September 1960, as quoted by N. F. Hefer & G. C. Basson in Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, Pictorial Biography 1901-1966, p. 88. Voortrekkerpers (1966)
  • [True democracy] is not what the Communists practice. It is not even what the African states practice. But that is the pressure being exerted when demands are made upon our country. In other words, the process towards integration [would inexorably] lead to Bantu domination, a situation from which there would be no escape. … [Coloureds and Indians] must not think that the colour of their skins will protect them. The minority groups will all have to contend with an unrestricted domination by the Bantu if a multi-racial state comes into being. … the people of South Africa cannot accept the consequence of a multi-racial state unless the Whites, the Coloureds and the Indians are prepared to commit race suicide.
  • After half a century of co-operation – difficult, at times very difficult – a stage has been reached when both groups [i.e. Afrikaans and English-speaking whites] as never before are faced with a challenge to bury the past, to let it become the combined history of a unified volk/people. Today we are faced with threats for the future of our civilization, for our prosperity, for the contribution of the white man of Africa to the struggle of the white man of Europe and America to retain his hegemony in the world. Also to make Christianity victorious, sacrifices must be made, and nowhere is Christianity more threatened than in Africa. Sacrifices of sentiment is expected of everybody. There must not only be a union of provinces in South Africa. There must also be a union of hearts.
    • Verwoerd in 1963, as quoted and translated by J. J. Venter in H.F. Verwoerd: Foundational aspects of his thought, Koers 64(4) 1999: 415–442
  • We must have the courage of men and be strong. But the will to resistance of a volk/people is linked to the kind of leadership which he chooses for himself. If he has the will to resistance, he searches for strong leadership and not weak leadership. If you want to be victorious, you have to be prepared to follow leaders who are not prepared to cave in.
    • Verwoerd in 1963, as quoted and translated by J. J. Venter in H.F. Verwoerd: Foundational aspects of his thought, Koers 64(4) 1999: 415–442
  • Apartheid means: ‘something of your own’; the other word refers to something even greater, i.e. ‘development’, which implies ‘growth’. A human being should not regress if one undertakes a task. Through the work of one's hands something must come into being. This is creation; and development is growth by what one creates anew in a continuously flowing process. Therefore separate development means the kind of growth which one creates by means of own power and for the sake of yourself and your people.
    • Verwoerd in 1963, as quoted and translated by J. J. Venter in H.F. Verwoerd: Foundational aspects of his thought, Koers 64(4) 1999: 415–442
  • Israel is not consistent in its new anti-apartheid attitude... They took Israel away from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years. In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.
    • Quoted in The Empire's New Walls: Sovereignty, Neo-liberalism, and the Production of Space in Post-apartheid South Africa and Post-Oslo Palestine/Israel, by Andrew James Clarno, 2009. pp. 66–67

Quotes about VerwoerdEdit

  • Today, we formally approved the renaming of H[oë]rskool HF Verwoerd to Rieto[n]dale Secondary School. My mission in this world is to reverse everything this man called Verwoerd has done to our education system. Others names like Jan Smuts will also fall #NomoreHöerskoolHFVerwoerd
  • [Your] Government, after receiving a mandate from a section of the European population, decided to proclaim a Republic on 31 May. [It is feared that] under this proposed Republic your Government, which is already notorious the world over for its obnoxious policies, would continue to make even more savage attacks on the rights and living conditions of the African people. [We] considered the grave political situation facing the African people today. [Many delegates] drew attention to the vicious manner in which your Government forced [people of various areas] to accept the unpopular system of Bantu Authorities, [and] the rapid manner in which race relations are deteriorating in this country.
  • Ek wil nie 'n huigelaar wees nie: die feit dat Dr Verwoerd nie meer die Eerste Minister van Suid-Afrika is nie, is die beste ding wat met ons land kon gebeur het.
  • I don't want to be a hypocrite: the fact that Dr Verwoerd is no longer the prime minister of South Africa is the best thing that could have happened to our country.
  • Every day, you see a man you know committing a very serious crime for which millions of people suffer. You cannot take him to court or report him to the police because he is the law in the country. Would you remain silent and let him continue with his crime or would you do something to stop him? You are guilty not only when you commit a crime, but also when you do nothing to prevent it when you have a chance.

External linksEdit