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His Excellency
 Harry Heinz Schwarz

In office
6 March 1991 – 12 January 1995
President Frederik Willem de Klerk
Nelson Mandela
Preceded by Piet Koornhof
Succeeded by Franklin Sonn

1st South Africa Ambassador to Barbados
In office

In office
30 November 1977 – 5 May 1987
Preceded by John Jaminan
Succeeded by Jan van Zyl

In office
Preceded by Vause Raw
Succeeded by Roger Hulley

In office
Succeeded by Alf Widman

In office
24 April 1974 – 6 February 1991
Preceded by Marais Steyn
Succeeded by Douglas Gibson

In office

Born 13 May 1924(1924-05-13)
Cologne, Weimar Republic
Died 5 February 2010 (aged 85)
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Political party United Party
Reform Party
Progressive Reform Party
Progressive Federal Party
Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Annette Louise Schwarz
Children Jonathan, Allan & Michael Schwarz
Alma mater University of the Witwatersrand
Occupation Solicitor
Religion Judaism

Harry Heinz Schwarz (13 May 1924 – 5 February 2010) was a South African lawyer, politician, diplomat and prominent leader in the anti-apartheid movement.

Despite the childhood poverty he experienced as a German Jewish refugee, Harry Schwarz rose to become an esteemed lawyer and soon became a member of the Transvaal Provincial Council, where from 1963 to 1974, he would be Leader of the Opposition. In the 1964 Rivonia Trial he was a defense attorney. As Leader of the United Party in Transvaal, he led the liberal "Young Turks" to breakaway from the United Party and created the Reform Party of which he was leader. As an opposition leader in Parliament, known for his sharp attacks on the National Party, he held the posts of Shadow Finance Minister and Shadow Defense Minister. He was a founding member of the Democratic Party. During South Africa's transition into democracy he was South African ambassador to the United States, South Africa's top diplomat, and was also accredited as the first South African ambassador to Barbados. He was in the minority opposition for over 40 years and was a prominent opponent of the National Party.

He was a founder of the Torch Commando, an ex-soldiers' movement to protest against the disenfranchisement of the coloured people in South Africa. For decades he was on the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and was one of the Jewish community's foremost leaders. He is regarded as one of the great South African orators and debaters of his time. In his political career spanning 43 years, in which he gained respect from across the political spectrum, he never lost an election. He was a World War II veteran, having served as a navigator in the South African Air Force. In 1988 he received the Order for Meritorious Service and has several Honorary Doctorates.

He was described by the University of Stellenbosch as "one of the conceptual and moral fathers of the new South Africa"[1] in the sense that Schwarz had not only been one of apartheid's most prominent opponents, but his ideas and the initiatives he had taken had played an important role in the development of the concept of a negotiated democracy in South Africa, based on the principles of freedom and justice. Nelson Mandela, a friend of his who he visited while in prison, described him as a "champion of the poor".


Refugee from Germany

Harry Schwarz, born Heinz Schwarz was born to Fritz (1897-1969) and Alma Schwarz (1901-1999) in Cologne, Germany. He arrived in South Africa as a Jewish refugee from Germany in 1934 with his mother and younger brother. They boarded the SS Giulio Cesare in Genoa, Italy which took them to South Africa. When they arrived in Cape Town they stayed in one room in a house in Kloof Street. Schwarz described how he was "lucky" as eventually he was able to sleep in a bathroom in a rusty bath. The discrimination and financial difficulties of his family left a strong impression on Schwarz and helped shape his political philosophy with its emphasis on social justice and the rule of law.

He attended Tamboerskloof School and South African College Schools in Cape Town and then Jeppe High School for Boys in Johannesburg.


Military service

In 1942, aged 17, he joined the South African Air Force during World War II in order to fight Nazism. He served as a navigator. He fought in North Africa and Italy. It was in the air force that he adopted the name Harry, as his Colonel said Heinz would not stand him in good stead if he were captured by Germans. He was in 15 Squadron and seconded to the RAF. In 1984 he was made an Honorary Colonel of the 15th Squadron.

Apartheid in South Africa
Events and Projects

Sharpeville Massacre
Soweto uprising · Treason Trial
Rivonia Trial · Mahlabatini Declaration
Church Street bombing · CODESA
St James Church massacre
Cape Town peace march · Purple Rain


ANC · IFP · AWB · Black Sash · CCB
Conservative Party · ECC · PP · RP
Broederbond · National Party


P. W. Botha · Oupa Gqozo · D. F. Malan
Nelson Mandela · Desmond Tutu
F. W. de Klerk · Walter Sisulu
Helen Suzman · Harry Schwarz
Andries Treurnicht · H. F. Verwoerd
Oliver Tambo · B. J. Vorster
Kaiser Matanzima · Jimmy Kruger
Steve Biko · Mahatma Gandhi
Joe Slovo · Trevor Huddleston


Bantustan · District Six · Robben Island
Sophiatown · South-West Africa
Soweto · Sun City · Vlakplaas

Other aspects

Afrikaner nationalism
Apartheid laws · Freedom Charter
Sullivan Principles · Kairos Document
Disinvestment campaign
South African Police

Wits University

In 1946 he went to University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg with the help of a Government loan and grant, where he first befriended fellow students and future anti-apartheid political activists Nelson Mandela and Joe Slovo. He joined the United Party and assisted in the 1948 election. However, as a result of the National Party victory, he was determined to become more active and was elected Chairman of the United Party branch at the university. He argued that the National Party's victory in 1948 was reversible and anyone who opposed them should concentrate on defeating them. In an interview in 1991, Schwarz said on the National Party victory that “To me, they were the people who had supported Germany during the war. As a young man, it was very objectionable to me that the very people I had been fighting against were the people that the National Party had supported.”

He was awarded a BA, with distinctions in both history and economical history, and later an LLB. In 1949 he was admitted as an attorney, and later as a barrister (Member of Middle Temple) in London, United Kingdom and, in 1953, became an advocate at the South African Bar.

Rivonia trial

In 1964 Nelson Mandela and many other political opponents were arrested. They were brought to court in the Rivonia Trial. Harry Schwarz was one of the defence barristers in the trial defending Accused No. 8 Jimmy Kantor, who was a close friend of his. Kantor was Mandela's lawyer in the trial until he too was arrested and charged with the same crimes as Mandela. After being the subject of vicious taunting and many attempts to place him as a vital cog of MK by Percy Yutar, finally Judge Quartus de Wet discharged him, stating Accused No 8 has no case to answer. Kantor was the only accused who was acquitted. Kantor stating in his book, A healthy grave, that Schwarz refused payment. Schwarz was refused access to Mandela while he was imprisoned on Robben Island, however he was granted access to visit him after 1988 when he was transferred to Victor Verster Prison. After the trial he left the Bar and became a solicitor so that he could concentrate on fighting apartheid.

Provincial politics

Harry Schwarz's political career started with his election to the Johannesburg City Council for Booysens in 1951. He succeeded Labour Party politician Jimmy Green, who was his wife's uncle, who had been the City Councillor for Booysens since 1920. In 1958 in a by-election he was elected into the Transvaal provincial council for Hillbrow. In 1963 he became leader of the opposition in the Transvaal Provincial Council, a post he would hold until 1974. Throughout his political career, Schwarz continued to practice law. However, he briefly withdrew from law between 1969 and 1974 when he was the Chief Executive of Merchant Bank.

Tensions within United Party

Schwarz was known as the leader of the liberal "Young Turks" in the United Party who were fundamentally opposed to apartheid, unlike the party's national leader De Villiers Graaff. Schwarz achieved prominence as a race relations and economic reformist in the party. In 1971 he became deputy leader of the UP in the Transvaal, a post specially created for him. However, internal divisions in the Party between liberals and conservatives came to a head in August 1973 when Schwarz replaced Marais Steyn as the leader of the United Party in the Transvaal. Steyn had been a MP for almost 25 years and for 15 years had been a close adviser to De Villiers Graaff. After he lost the election he defected to the National Party. His victory was a visible sign of strength from the liberals within the party.

Mahlabatini Declaration

On January 4 1974, Harry Schwarz met with Mangosuthu Buthelezi. They agreed on a five-point plan for racial peace in South Africa that became known as the Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith. Its purpose was to provide a blueprint for government by consent and racial peace in a multi-racial society, stressing opportunity for all, consultation, the federal concept, and a bill of rights. The declaration marked the beginning of negotiations for a peaceful solution to South Africa’s problems at a time when neither the National Party nor the ANC were interested in peaceful solutions or dialogue. It was much closer to the Progressive Party than the United Party policy. It caused a split in the United Party later that year.

On March 29 1974, Chief Minister Cedric Phatudi of Lebowa signed the ‘Seshego Declaration’ with Harry Schwarz and the United Party M.P. for Durban North aiming at peaceful change, a federal system and a stake in society for black people.

Parliamentary career

Realigning opposition

Progressive Federal Party election rally poster with Harry Schwarz

Harry Schwarz played a key role in the realignment of the opposition in South Africa. In the 1974 general election, Schwarz was elected into Parliament for Yeoville, beating Marais Steyn who had defected to the National Party after he was ousted by Schwarz as Transvaal chairman of the United Party. On 11 February 1975 he along with three other MPs were expelled from the United Party for signing the Mahlabatini Declaration and not following the "party line". They formed the Reform Party, of which Schwarz as elected leader. The party's charter mainly incorporated the Mahlabatini Declaration's principles and called for universal franchise and for equality to be extended to all. The party had four MP's, a senator, ten members of the Transvaal Provincial Council, which made it the official opposition party in the Transvaal Provincial Council, 14 out of the 36 Johannesburg City Councillors and four Randburg City Councillors.

On the 25 July 1975, the Reform Party merged with the Progressive Party to form the Progressive Reform Party. Schwarz became the party's spokesman on finance and Chairman of the Federal Executive, while Colin Eglin was elected leader. In 1977 the party was renamed the Progressive Federal party. This proved to realign opposition politics in South Africa, as the PFP became the official opposition party in South Africa, following the 1977 general election.

Leader of the opposition

Schwarz, as his party's finance spokesman (1975–91), defence spokesman (1975–84) and Chairman of the Federal Executive (1975–79), became one of the parties foremost leaders and a prominent leader of the opposition. He forcefully denounced the government's racial policy. According to fellow progressive activist Helen Suzman, Schwarz carried out his role so effectively as Shadow Finance Minister that National Party Finance Ministers lived in terror of him, particularly when the time came for delivering the annual budget speech. During the budget debate in 1979, Schwarz called for urgent steps to be taken to tackle unemployment. He stated that South Africa needed to create at least three jobs every minute of every 40-hour working week to deal with its unemployment problem. He stated that unemployment was a political time-bomb. He was a member and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and a member of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. On several occasions, Schwarz received behind-the-scenes offers to accept a Cabinet position, which he refused every time.[2]

While distinctly on the left of South African politics, he was perceived to be on the right-wing of the PFP mainly due to his favoring strong military defense and his insistence that political change must take place without the disruption of law and order, which earned him the nickname "Harry the Hawk Schwarz".

Harry Schwarz with his wife, President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in 1993

Democratic Party

Schwarz was one of the founding members of the Democratic Party. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he formulated its social market policy. Given South Africa's complex character, Mr Schwarz advocated a federal system similar to that of the United States, as well as a justiciable Bill of Rights to protect the rights of minorities as well as the majority, a measure which he attempted to persuade parliament to accept. His economic philosophy is summed up in a phrase he often used: "Freedom is incomplete if it is exercised in poverty".

On February 6, 1991 he ended his career in parliament. His farewell speech to parliament was entitled "Look after my people while I'm gone".

South African Ambassador to United States

Harry Schwarz was the first serving politician from the opposition ranks to be appointed to a senior ambassadorial post in South African history. He was also accredited as the first South African High Commissioner to Barbados in 1993 when diplomatic relations opened. Schwarz had previously received behind-the-scenes offers to accept a Cabinet position, by President P.W. Botha and Prime Minister B.J. Voster, but refused every time due to their commitment to apartheid. He agreed to the appointment of ambassador because of the government's commitment to the fundamental reforms that he had fought for, as well as on the terms that the National Party would not try and take his seat in Yeoville. In an interview with the New York Times Schwarz said that "He hasn't asked me to change my political convictions," speaking of President de Klerk. "He knows that I'm implacably opposed to apartheid. Otherwise, there's no logic in asking me to do this job." Nor, Mr. Schwarz added, was he bound for Washington to represent South Africa's five million whites."I've made it clear that I want to be ambassador for 37 million people." The fact that Schwarz, a well known and respected anti-apartheid leader was willing to accept the post was widely acknowledged in South Africa as a further demonstration of President F. W de Klerk's determination to introduce a new democratic system.

While in office in Washington, D.C., he worked on marketing the process towards democracy in South Africa and on lifting sanctions. Schwarz, played a significant role in convincing many Americans that the de Klerk government was committed to ending apartheid. In 1991, after international pressure on South Africa, Harry Schwarz signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. After the 1994 General election, he stayed on as ambassador, following a request from Nelson Mandela to stay on in the government of national unity.

Harry Schwarz handing his credentials to President George H. W. Bush in 1991

Schwarz resigned his post as ambassador and returned to South Africa in November 1994, following his three and-a-half-year tenure as South African ambassador to the United States. At an event sponsored by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in his honour, Schwarz urged the Jewish community to make the best of the changes taking place in South Africa and to contribute actively to the success of the country.

Jewish Board of Deputies

Beginning in the mid-seventies, Schwarz played an increasingly important role on the Jewish Board of Deputies, serving as chairman of its committee on international relations and often acting as spokesman for the board to Jewish agencies abroad. He argued that violent change could ultimately lead to a nondemocratic government, incompatible with Jewish ethics and with the interests of the Jewish community. He emphasized that Jews needed not only a democratic society for all, but also "The right to follow [their] own religion and love for Israel freely." He was assured in private meetings by Israeli Prime Minister's Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir that Jews in South Africa would not become isolated and links with Israel would be maintained. Schwarz was at the time of his death the vice-president of the Jewish Board of Deputies.

Awards and honors

Harry Schwarz was awarded Order for Meritorious Service (Gold) in 1988, which is awarded to citizens who have displayed exceptional meritorious and dedicated service to South Africa. In 1995 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, from the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University). [3]That year he also received an Honorary Degree from the University of Stellenbosch. He has also been given the Society of Advocates Prize and Transvaal Law Society Prize. In 1984 he was made an Honorary Colonel of the 15th Squadron in the South African Air Force, which he served in during the Second World War. In 2002 he was appointed Honorary Life Vice-President of the Gauteng Council of the Jewish Board of Deputies. In April 2005, he was named an honorary fellow of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Sir John Adamson High's School's hall was named, and still is, after Schwarz who was the first Chairperson of the School's Governing Body.[4]

Later life

Harry Schwarz retired from politics on returning from Washington, and returned to law to practice in Schwarz-North in Johannesburg. His areas of legal practice were primarily corporate and commercial with special interests in banking, insurance, diplomacy and advocacy. He remained active in the Jewish community and was up to the time of his death, president of the South Africa-Israel Chamber of Commerce and vice-president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. After Schwarz left Washington, he and his wife set up a charity trust called the Schwarz Upliftment Trust. In 2000 he left the Democratic Party because of its alliance with the New National Party. He lived in Johannesburg with his wife Annette, who ran all of his election campaigns. She is the niece of trade unionist Jimmy Green. They were married for 57 years with three children and four grandchildren.

Death and tributes

On the morning of 5 February 2010, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies announced that Schwarz had passed away, following a short illness, at the age of 85. [5] He was laid to rest on Sunday 7 February in the section of honor in the West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg, which was attended by hundreds of guests and family members.

Democratic Alliance leader and Leader of the Opposition Helen Zille led tributes to Schwarz. She said "On behalf of the Democratic Alliance, I extend sincere condolences on the death of Harry Schwarz". She added "Harry Schwarz will be remembered for his signal contribution to the development of our democracy. His piercing intellect, and long professional experience in banking, made him the most astute analyst in Parliament on economic and financial matters during his terms in office. He has engraved his place in South Africa's political history. We will always remember him".[6] South African President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to Schwarz in his State of the Nation address to Parliament on the 11 February 2010, the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison and the 35th anniversary of the founding of Schwarz's Reform Party. [7]

In a statement the Jewish Board of Deputies said that Schwarz "One of the last of a generation of German Jewish refugees from Nazism who came to South Africa in the 1930s, he rendered sterling service to his adopted country, whether in the political, diplomatic, human rights, legal or Jewish communal fields." It stated that he was "amongst the most forthright and effective campaigners against apartheid" and also said how he "remained actively involved in Jewish communal work to the very end." Rabbi Mendel Rabinowitz, who conducted the funeral said "Those like Harry, who contribute to society in so many capacities for so many years never die. Their bodies are laid to rest but the memory of them continues to live on."

Others such as former Leader of the Opposition Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, former Foreign Minister Pik Botha and the African Christian Democratic Party paid tribute to Schwarz for his record as an anti-apartheid campaigner and for his contribution to democracy and human rights in South Africa.


"Freedom is incomplete if it is exercised in poverty."

"It is important that in the process of change, existing institutions of value and means of production are not destroyed. The fabric of society, however critical one may be of its present structures, should be adopted and modified where required, but not destroyed."

"We are opposed to the homeland concept and we believe the way to solve our problems is to call a national convention of all races to change to a more multiracial basis."

"We are a country with a people who are removing the shackles of apartheid and will create a just economic system and a true democracy"

"I want to abolish discrimination, not merely cosmetically but in reality."


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