Twice chosen for high office because of his reputation as a man of iron will, yet he surprised everyone by his flexibility. As Minister of Justice after the Sharpeville shootings in March 1960 when 67 Africans were shot dead in demonstrations against pass laws he did not shrink from drastic measures including detention without trial. As successor to the assassinated Premier Verwoerd, he was the natural choice for restoring Afrikaner confidence in firm government. But the heavily-built, seemingly slow-moving leader went faster with verligte (enlightened) policies than the verkrampte (hardline) Nationalists ever imagined. His most important innovation was the opening of dialogue with black African states and his cultivation of a “Live and Let Live” relationship with his neighbours.
Party affiliation: National Party