Educated at Paarl Gymnasium, matriculating in 1924.
He joined the government service in 1925, starting in the Department of Mines. In 1937 he was transferred to the Department of Commerce and Industries. Carrying on his studies in his spare time, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree through the University of South Africa and then a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Witwatersrand. He resigned as a civil servant in 1943 to practise law at Klerksdorp.
In 1950 he began his political career by winning the Klerksdorp seat in the Transvaal Provincial Council at a byelection. Three years later he was elected to Parliament as MP for Klerksdorp. His deep knowledge of Parliamentary procedure resulted in his appointment in 1961 as Deputy Chairman of Committees in Parliament. On August 1, 1966 he was chosen Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly but he left the post six weeks later when Vorster became Prime Minister and appointed him Minister of Justice and Prisons.
In office he has faced strong Liberal resentment over his policy of banning processions at the first sign of angry demonstrations. His view has been that political protest meetings should be held indoors “which is where they belong and not on streets and thoroughfares to the annoyance, obstruction and provocation of passers-by”. His policy resulted in baton charges and tear gas against clergymen and students at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, in June 1972 when he was bitterly criticised for what his opponents called provocative restriction of the right to protest against discrimination. Many political observers expected him to lose his portfolios at the big cabinet reshuffle in July 1972 but the storm passed over his head.
Experienced parliamentarian on the right wing of the party with over 20 years’ service in the House of Assembly. Often at the centre of controversy because of his tough policy towards protest movements. Close associate of Prime Minister Vorster, which helps explain his long tenure of the same cabinet office despite pressure for his removal because of his heavy-handed suppression of student demonstrations in June 1972.