The Last Afrikaner Leaders

A Supreme Test of Power

Hermann Giliomee



Epub ISBN:




Date Released:

October 2012

Price (incl. VAT):

R 490.00


Soft cover, 448pp

About this book:

Renowned historian Hermann Giliomee takes a fresh and incisive look at five of the most influential Afrikaner leaders – and how and why their best laid plans went tragically and horrifically wrong. In this book he challenges conventional wisdom on the downfall of white rule: Instead of impersonal forces, or the resourcefulness of an indomitable resistance movement, he emphasises the role of Nationalist leaders and of their outspoken critic, Van Zyl Slabbert. What motivated each of the last Afrikaner leaders, from Verwoerd to De Klerk? How did each try to reconcile economic growth, white privilege and security with the demands of an increasingly assertive black leadership and unexpected population figures? In exploring each leader’s background, reasoning and personal foibles, Giliomee takes issue with the assumption that South Africa was inexorably heading for an ANC victory in 1994. He argues that historical accidents radically affected the course of politics. Drawing on primary sources and personal interviews, this book sheds dramatic new light on many key moments: Verwoerd’s offer to the urban black leadership in 1950, the incursion into Angola in 1975, the unexpected breakthrough that enabled labour reforms, Botha’s secret attempt in 1984 to forge a pact with the Soviet Union, the background to the disastrous Rubicon speech and the National Party backtracking in the negotiations. Giliomee offers a fresh and stimulating political history which attempts not to condemn, but to understand why the last Afrikaner leaders did what they did, and why their own policies ultimately failed them.