Extra Virgin June

Speeches That Changed the Modern History of South Africa - Arthur Christopher

Harold Macmillan – ‘The Wind of Change’

On the 3rd of February 1960 Harold Macmillan, then Prime Minister of Great Britain, gave a symbolic speech at the South African Parliament which heralded the end of British colonial rule throughout Africa.

While it was a repetition of a speech given in Ghana a few weeks previously, the media attention which followed his South African appearance meant that little could stand in the way of the tide of independence movements sweeping the continent.

Referring to the rise in pro-independence movements throughout Britain’s extensive African colonies since the end of World War II, Macmillan said: “Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.” For black South Africans the speech was a double-edged sword.

On the one hand it presented the possibility of freedom from external rule, but on the other it essentially removed Britain’s authority as an opposing force to the rising tide of Afrikaner nationalism and Apartheid which was fast becoming an entrenched political and economic policy.

Listen to the speech at


Hendrik Verwoerd – ‘Separate Development’

Responding to Macmillan’s speech, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd delivered a chillingly charismatic and well-received speech to Parliament hailing the role of the “white man in Africa” and explaining his policy of Separate Development – the policy which the NP used to justify Apartheid by relocating the countries black majority to predefined and supposedly independently run Homelands.

Verwoerd went on to label this his policy of “good neighbourliness”, justifying it to the outside world by claiming that white and black simply cannot live side by side in peace. He was, he contended, doing the country a favour by forcing the separation of the two broadly defined races.

Laws passed by Verwoerd became the foundation of the Apartheid state which was to drive South Africa into its darkest political and economic period, emerging only in 1994 with the first democratic elections.

See the clip at


Nelson Mandela – Rivonia Trial

In July 1963 Nelson Mandela and several of his ANC and SACP colleagues were arrested at Lilliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg and charged with countless acts of Sabotage aimed, the state alleged, at overthrowing the Apartheid system. Against legal advice the accused all decided to deny nothing that they had done and use the trial as a means to broadcast the plight of the black majority in South Africa at the hands of the Apartheid government.

They were all aware that such a strategy could well cost them their lives, but it is one which caught the state completely off guard and led to a series of massive blunders from its chief prosecutor, Percy Yutar. The defence team decided not to allow Mandela to take the stand, opting rather to let him deliver a speech without cross-examination.

What followed cemented Mandela’s credentials as a leader of extraordinary proportions, and an even, unemotional and superbly balanced attack on the accusations made against him and his co-accused and the unjust system of Apartheid as a whole. With his final paragraph Mandela instantly became one of the most talked about and admired revolutionary leaders throughout the world.

Read the full text here: http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/rivonia.html
Listen to it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/series/greatspeeches


FW De Klerk – ’The Season of Violence is Over’

Following a resurgence in anti-apartheid violence throughout the 1980s, dealt with hopelessly by his predecessor PW Botha, then Prime Minister FW De Klerk was faced with the unavoidable task of making some concessions in order to ease international anger at the South African government and begin the process of recovering its ailing economy.

When he took to the podium in Parliament on the 2nd of February 1990 it was anticipated that he would signal a shift in government policy, but few expected the reforms to be so widespread. Referring to the break-up of the Soviet Union, De Klerk spoke about the need to keep in step with global shifts, before going on to un-ban the ANC, free all political prisoners and release Nelson Mandela “unconditionally” in order for him to play a part in the negotiation process. De Klerk hoped that these reforms would create a wave of support for the NP and ensure its ability to win in the planned Democratic elections.

Mandela was released on February 11th 1990. The New South Africa was born.

Read the full text here: http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/1996/101348690.htm

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