14 May 2010

An advocate of reform: Frederik van Zyl Slabbert

At the age of 70, retired opposition leader, political analyst and businessman Frederik van Zyl Slabbert passed away on the 14th of May, 2010. He is survived by his wife Jane and two children from his first marriage, Tania and Riko. In 1973, he joined the Progressive Party (PP), and in 1974, won the Rondebosch parliamentary seat. In 1979 he became the head of the official opposition party, the Progressive Federal Party (PFP). Van Zyl described the plan for a Tricameral parliament as being

"so defective and ill-conceived that if implemented (would) set back the process of reform for at least a decade...(the plan would) increase and not reduce the risk of racial conflict in South Africa... negotiation politics present(ed) the only possible solution to our conflicts..."

‘Don't let's talk talks into an early grave', Sunday Times, May 12, 1985 (Newsclipping), AL2457_D9 :: Progressive Federal Party (PFP), SAHA Original Collection

In 1985, van Zyl travelled to Lusaka to talk to the African National Congress (ANC) in-exile. With Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, he launched the National Convention Movement (NCM) in an unsuccessful bid to stimulate inter-party negotiations. Van Zyl Slabbert also engaged closely with the radical white left, including an historic public debate on conscription held between him and late Wits academic David Webster. Van Zyl finally left politics in February 1986, and later that year co-founded the Institute for a Democracy Alternative in South Africa (IDASA) with fellow former PFP parliamentarian Alex Boraine. IDASA was founded on the basis that

"...although many shared a commitment to a democratic future, there was a great deal of misunderstanding as to what this (would) entail. There seemed to be a clear need for an institute with its major focus on democracy which would provide a forum for discussion and debate."

‘History', National Paper to FFF Conference (June 1989), Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (IDASA), AL2457_V3, IDASA, Original SAHA Collection

The following year, van Zyl Slabbert led a group of 61 Afrikaans-speaking South Africans to the Dakar Conference in Senegal, where  several days were spent in discussion with 17 ANC-in-exile representatives. This meeting resulted in the historic Dakar Declaration. Van Zyl Slabbert is remembered for his determination to achieve meaningful debate and discussion between white and black elements of the South African political spectrum - central to the process of negotiations which ended apartheid.

Collections relating to Frederick van Zyl Slabbert, the PFP and IDASA

AL2457 :: The Original SAHA Collection

The Original South African History Archive (SAHA) Collection includes papers and publications collected from various anti-apartheid movement organisations ranging from between 1980-1992. The collection is divided into major categories, including government, administrative structures, political parties and organisations. Material on both the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) and the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa (IDASA) can be found in this collection.

AL2446 :: The SAHA Poster Collection

This collection consists of over 4000 unique posters dating mostly from the 1980s-1990s. The collection includes a large number of posters from the End Conscription Campaign (ECC), the United Democratic Front (UDF) and also includes posters relating to women, youth, AIDS, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) as well Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) struggles.

Poster advertising public meeting including Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert and the Reverend Peter Storey, AL2446_1494 :: SAHA Poster Collection

Poster advertising public meeting including Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert and the Reverend Peter Storey, AL2446_1494 :: SAHA Poster Collection

Debate: SADF: Shielding the nation or defending apartheid? : ECC and PFP, AL2446_0354, SAHA Poster Collection