The Verwoerd who toyi-toyied tells a surprising story. Anyone who lived in South Africa in the 1990s knows Melanie and her then-husband, Wilhelm Verwoerd, joined the ANC, shocking both their families and the conservative Afrikaans community.
Wilhelm’s grandfather was Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid. By campaigning for the ANC before the first democratic election in 1994, the couple destroyed the good name of the family, Wilhelm’s father told them. As Hendrik’s eldest son, he was the guardian of the family’s legacy.
”We would no longer be welcome in ‘his’ house,” Melanie wrote, once news of their ANC membership broke in newspapers. Afterwards they would ”quietly visit his mother when he was not home, or I would drop off the children, waiting in a nearby restaurant for the call to come for me to pick them up”.
This is not surprising to many local readers of her book. Nor is it a surprise reading about Melanie’s work as an MP in the first democratically elected government. Women across racial, class and political divides had formed an alliance and insisted they would be represented fully in the new political dispensation, Melanie explains in her book. She describes how meetings were scheduled to suit men’s diaries, and reveals that there were too few toilets for women.
Given the long working hours in Parliament, ”childcare was badly needed”, something promised before the election. In protest, women decided ”to bring our children to work on a given day. It is hard to describe the chaos that ensued”. By lunch time that day, parliament had a creche.
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André Beukes is an EU Management Consultant to international companies doing business in Europe. He provides clients with practical business support that makes a real difference doing business in the EU. “Put simply, I am here to help you meet your challenges. I believe in the importance of doing things correctly, meaning risks are reduced and problems are avoided.”