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Frederik van Zyl Slabbert: Wikis


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Frederik van Zyl Slabbert (born March 2, 1940) is a South African political analyst, businessman, and former politician. He is best known for being the leader of the official opposition — the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) — in the House of Assembly from 1979 to 1986.

Born in Pretoria to an Afrikaner family, Slabbert grew up in what is now the Limpopo Province of South Africa. He matriculated from the Pietersburg Afrikaans High School in 1958.

The following year, 1959, Slabbert started his tertiary studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, but moved to Stellenbosch University after completing his first year, primarily to play rugby union. He went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1961, a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree (Cum Laude) in 1962, a Master of Arts Degree (Cum Laude) in 1964 and a Doctorate in Philosophy in 1967.

After completing his studies he was a sociology lecturer at the universities of Stellenbosch, Rhodes, Cape Town and the Witwatersrand before being appointed as professor in 1973.

He entered full-time politics the following year, eventually retiring as leader of the official opposition twelve years later.

Slabbert is married to Jane and has two children from his first marriage.

Political career

During his academic studies Slabbert developed an active interest in politics, which led him to reject apartheid and to stand for a seat on Stellenbosch University's Students' Representative Council. He lost the election as he was considered to be too liberal.

In the South African general elections of 1974 Slabbert stood as parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Rondebosch on behalf of the Progressive Party (PP). Although he was not expected to win the seat he beat the United Party (UP) candidate by 1,600 votes. He retained the seat for the PFP (the successor party to the PP after two mergers with defectors from the "left-wing" of more right-wing parties) in the general elections of 1977 and 1981.

Slabbert rose in the ranks of the PP/PRP/PFP and came to play an important role in the development of the party's ideology, particularly as the chairman of its Constitutional Committee. In 1979 he was elected as leader of the PFP and thus became the leader of the parliamentary official opposition. Slabbert retired as leader of the PFP and quit active politics in 1986; this decision was mainly due to his feeling that Parliament had become an irrelevant institution in the context of South Africa's political problems of that time. He published a book at this time entitled The Last White Parliament.

However, Slabbert re-entered politics in 1987 in order to further negotiations between white South Africans and the African National Congress (ANC). This led to the Dakar conference, which took place between the anti-apartheid movement and leading (mainly Afrikaner) politicians, academics and businessmen in Senegal during the same year. The conference was organised by the Institute for a Democratic South Africa (IDASA), of which he later became the director of policy and planning.

Slabbert also works as regional facilitator for the George Soros-backed funding organisation, the Open Society Foundation of Southern Africa, which identifies and invests in worthy projects in nine African countries.

In addition, he co-founded Khula - a black investment trust - in 1990. Slabbert was appointed as chairman of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed Adcorp Holdings in 1998 and also sits on the boards of several other JSE-listed companies such as Wooltru, Investec and Radiospoor.

Slabbert was voted 82nd in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004.


The cover of his book The Other Side of History.
  • South Africa's Options: Strategies for Sharing with David Welsh. London: Rex Collings (1979). ISBN 0-86036-116-0
  • The Last White Parliament: The Struggle for South Africa, by the Leader of the White Opposition. Sidgwick & Jackson (1986). ISBN 0-283-99349-9
  • Comrades in Business: Post-Liberation Politics in South Africa with Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley. Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers (1998). ISBN 0-624-03601-4
  • Tough Choices: Reflections of an Afrikaner African. Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers (2000). ISBN 0-624-03880-7
  • The Other Side of History: An Anecdotal Reflection on Political Transition in South Africa. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers (2006). ISBN 1-86842-250-X (Also in Afrikaans as Duskant die geskiedenis, ISBN 0-624-04357-6.)

As editor

  • Youth in the New South Africa: Towards Policy Formulation - Main Report of the Co-Operative Research Programme: South African Youth with Charles Malan, Hendrik Marais, Johan Olivier and Rory Riordan (Eds.). Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council Press (1994). ISBN 0-7969-1646-2


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