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Chris Heunis (1927-2006) was a South African Afrikaner lawyer, politician, member of the National Party and former minister in the governments of John Vorster and P.W. Botha.

Chris Heunis was born in 1927 in Uniondale close to The Cape.

After studying in George, he continued his studies in law and became a lawyer in 1951.

At the same time, he pursued a political career and became head of the National Party in George District and a member of the municipal council.

In 1959, he was elected to George Provincial Council.

Heunis was elected to parliament in 1970, and in 1974 became Minister of Indian Affairs and Tourism in the government of John Vorster. In 1975, he became Minister of Economic Affairs.

In 1979, as part of the PW Botha Government, he participated in the preparation of a new constitution, and in 1982, became Minister of Constitutional Reform. In this role, he put in place the tricameral parliament, gave the right to vote to Indians, and the coloured, in separate chambers of the South African parliament. He convinced the leader of the Coloured Labour Party, Allan Hendrickse, to agree to this reform.

During this time, he took part in confidential informal interviews in Port Elizabeth between two NP representatives, and two representatives from the ANC.

In September 1986, Heunis was unanimously voted leader of the NP Federation of Cape Province, taking over from President P.W. Botha. He was seen as a figure to take over from the "old crocodile" and run the country.

However, his ascension was halted when he was not elected to the leadership, beaten by 39 votes in Helderberg by the former NP MP and South African ambassador to London, Dennis Worrall.

At the beginning of 1989, he assumed the functions of President for the interim for 100 days when Pieter Botha suffered a cerebral congestion.

He was one of the candidates for leadership of the National Party, along with Pik Botha, Barend du Plessis and Frederik de Klerk, but was beaten in the second round of elections.

Later, Heunis retired from political life, and did not participate in the elections of 1989, and returned to his law practice in Somerset West with his son Jakkie Heunis.

He received an honorary doctorate in philosophy from the University of Stellenbosch, honorary lieutenant-colonel of the police, honorary citizen of George, decorated with the Grand Cordon of the order of the Republic of China, and was father of four boys and one girl. Chris Heunis died in January 2006 in Somerset West after a long illness.

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Preceded by
New post
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Minister of Constitutional Development

1982-1989
Succeeded by
Gerrit Viljoen
Preceded by
Alwyn Schlebusch
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Minister of Home Affairs

1980-1982
Succeeded by
Frederik de Klerk
Preceded by
Lourens Muller
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Minister of Transport

1979-1980
Succeeded by
Hendrik S. Schoeman
Preceded by
Fanie Botha
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Minister of Energy

February-June 1979
Succeeded by
Frederik de Klerk
Preceded by
Schalk van der Merwe
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Minister of the Environment

November 1978-June 1979
Succeeded by
Frederik de Klerk
Preceded by
Owen Horwood
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Minister of Economic Affairs

1975-1980
Succeeded by
Dawie de Villiers
Preceded by
Owen Horwood
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Minister of Tourism and Indian Affairs

1974-1975
Succeeded by
Marais Steyn
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