Voortrekker or State Builder? John Vorster and the Challenges of Leadership in the Apartheid State

  • Jamie Miller
Part of the Palgrave Studies in African Leadership book series (PSAL)


In any history of the apartheid regime, two titans cast immense shadows: Hendrik Verwoerd (1958–1966) and P. W. Botha (prime minister 1978–1983, president 1983–1989). Verwoerd was the ideologue of the apartheid order. Eloquent, commanding, and captivating, he convinced an entire generation of Afrikaners (and other whites) that the physical separation of South Africa’s various ethnic communities was a feasible, moral, and logical model for securing their self-determination and prosperity.1 P. W. Botha was the would-be reformer, always looking for ways to finetune Verwoerd’s model; both his single-mindedness and his inability to revitalise apartheid attracted scholars from a range of disciplines. He was also the enforcer, presiding over the most widespread and systematic violence of the apartheid era, which guaranteed a recurring role on the front pages of newspapers the world over and an enduring presence in public memories of apartheid.2 Yet it was John Vorster, the fourth and longest-serving apartheid prime minister (1966–1978), Verwoerd’s successor and Botha’s predecessor, who sought to rebrand racial segregation and bolster new networks of legitimacy for the apartheid regime. It was Vorster who met with Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda at Victoria Falls in August 1975 and welcomed Henry Kissinger to Pretoria in August 1976.


Foreign Policy African State Political Sphere National Party Moral Legitimation 
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© Baba G. Jallow 2014

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  • Jamie Miller

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