3 MARCH 1961, Page 11

Dr. Verwoerd


DR. VERWOERD is beyond the reach of reason. This is not merely because he stands, a pudgy arrogance, within the flood of the African re- bellion. refusing to move; it is because, while he stands there, he volubly maintains that the flood is not reaching him at all. When his election as. Prime Minister was announced he benevolently informed us: 'I believe that the will of God was revealed in the ballot,' and he has subsequently referred to the intervention of God on many occasions. Remembering that Dr. Verwoerd began his career as a Professor of Applied Psychology, it is tempting to believe that he is simply combining the best techniques of Madison Avenue with the demands of an Old-Testament- suckled rural electorate; but it is difficult to see mere cynicism in the action of a man who keeps his eighty-six-year-old father in touch with the outside world by sending him copies of Hansard with all his own interminable and involuted speeches underlined in heavy blue pencil.

An impetuous correspondent of the Cape Nationalist daily Die Burger once interviewed Verwoerd, whose reputation as a hard-working Minister was widespread, and asked him if he never grew tired. Only those who were not sure that they were right in what they were doing, he informed her, ever got tired; and he himself had never been troubled by such doubts. What is one to say of a Minister of Native Affairs who permits in the official publication of his Depart- ment, Bantu, a contribution to appear, without subsequent remark : 'Verwoerd is my shep- herd ...' and so on to the end of the twenty-third psalm? Verwoerd may have shown himself to be cold-bloodedly cynical; but such arrogance surely suggests that he has toppled into a world of Messianic delusion.

Born in September, 1901, at Amsterdam, Hendrik Frensch emigrated to South Africa as a child with his missionary father, who established a grocery shop at Wynberg. Educated at Wyn- berg High School, he proceeded to Milton High School, Bulawayo, in Southern Rhodesia, where the Principal 'literally kicked him down the corridor'—he reported at the age of fifty-five— because he had wanted to return to the Union in order to join in the small short-lived armed rebellion 'of Afrikaners against South Africa's entry into the First World War. Attending the University of Stellenbosch, he gained his Master's degree in Psychology, Sociology and Logic, with distinctions, and became eligible for a £400-a-year Abe Bailey Bursary. But since this would have meant his going to Oxford and Britain he rejected it, took his Doctorate in Psychology and went to study in Leipzig, Ham- burg and Berlin instead. He returned to become Professor of Applied Psychology at the Univer- sity of Stellenbosch, and from 1933 to 1939 Pro- fessor of Sociology and Social Work. It was at this time that he accompanied five other Stellen- bosch professors in a deputation to General Hertzog, Prime Minister of the Union, to entreat the Government to refuse admission tO a small shipload of ragged German Jewish rbfugees.

From 1937 to 1948 he was editor of the Johannesburg Afrikaans daily Die Transvaler, the megaphone of Afrikaans extremism in the Transvaal and, throughout his own period of control, a shrill anti-Semitic, anti-British and pro-Nazi publication. The Star, Johannesburg's English-language daily, attacked Die Transvaler for falsifying news and acting as an instrument of Nazi propaganda. Dr. Verwoerd, with a con- fidence in the courts that he never displayed again, sued The Star for damages and lost. Mr. Justice Millin, delivering judgment in the Trans- vaal Supreme Court on July 13, 1943, ruled that Dr. Verwoerd 'did support Nazi propaganda, he did make his paper a tool of the Nazis in South Africa, and he knew it.' Dr. Verwoerd subse- quently complained that he had been tried by a Jewish judge. His flaming republicanism and hatred of Britain led him, during the 1947 royal visit to South Africa, to refuse space to a single word or picture of the event in Die Transvaler.

Editorship of Die Transvaler gave him stand- ing in the Nationalist Party, and though in 1948 he was defeated as parliamentary candidate, he was soon afterwards nominated as a Government Senator. From 1950 to 1958 he led the Nationalist Party in the Senate and became, in October, 1950, Minister of Native Affairs, a portfolio that he held until his election as Prime Minister late in 1958. The chief architect of apartheid, he dominated the Cabinets of Dr. Malan and Mr. Strijdom and was responsible for introducing nearly all the legislation which has made of life for the Africans in the Union a perpetual anguish of insecurity and punishment. The exponent of re-tribalisation, he introduced the system of Bantu Authorities, by which African tribal dif- ferences were to be encouraged and all Africans —urban and rural alike—placed under the dominion of government-appointed Chiefs. The uprisings that this has caused in Zeerust, Sekhukhuneland and Pondoland have not been entirely to the Prime Minister's taste. 'It is in no way a pleasant duty,' he has said, `to have people, even though they are Natives, imprisoned.' It was Dr. Verwoerd who introduced the Native Laws Amendment Act, empowering the Minister to prohibit African attendance at unsegregated church services as well as social and cultural functions. When he abandoned a scheme to establish a huge concentration camp for African political offenders, it was only from the method that he retreated: 'The policy of the Department has always been to scatter rather than concen- trate the deportees.'

Above all, both as Minister and as Prime Minister, he has shown himself utterly ruthless in suppressing all forms of resistance. As Prime Minister he has ruled his party and the country with an undeviating intransigence. He is far from generally popular within the party; but he unquestionably commands the fear of those -whose regard he does not enjoy. Those who be- lieve that he is vulnerable to reason are ignorant both of his record and of his character, Like the Hitler he so admired during the last war, his policy is a manifestation of his character. Like Hitler he will not concede; he can only be defeated.