The lot of the leader of the official opposition is never a happy one. It takes exceptional personal attributes, or “iron in the soul” as Van Zyl Slabbert defined it, to be an efficient one.
In terms of the Westminster political system, which formed the basis of the South African parliament between 1910 and 1994, the official parliamentary opposition, led by the leader of the biggest opposition party was an important office-holder of parliament. He received a degree of latitude and preference, not allowed to ordinary parliamentarians, from the Speaker of parliament.
This group biography investigates the leaders of the official parliamentary opposition before democracy to evaluate how they contributed to the shaping of South Africa’s history. The focus is on those who never became a prime minister, or executive president. Prime ministers J.B.M. Hertzog, J.C. Smuts and D.F. Malan’s years as opposition leaders have been investigated by historians, while the opposition leaders who failed to win elections are long forgotten, or at most reduced to historical footnotes.
The aim of this book is to bring to life the political “losers” — Sir Leander Starr Jameson (1910-1912), Sir Thomas Smartt (1912-1920), J.G.N. Strauss (1950-1956), Sir De Villiers Graaff (1956-1977), Radclyffe Cadman (1977), Colin Eglin (1977-1979 and 1986-1987)), Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert (1979-1986) and Dr. A.P. Treurnicht (1987-1993).
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