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A White Man's Break With Apartheid - 2003-02-07

During the time of apartheid in South Africa, not many whites rejected the system. One notable exception was the grandson of the man known as the architect of apartheid, former prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd.

The younger Verwoerd, Wilhelm, grew up exposed to the cultural conditioning normal for white children at the time. But as an adult, he began questioning the morality and political sustainability of apartheid. He then publicly supported and joined the African National Congress. Since then, Mr. Verwoerd has dedicated his life to peace and reconciliation in South Africa. He was recently a guest at the Institute of Comparative Human Rights, at the University of Connecticut, in Storrs.

English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje asked him what accounts most for the transformation of his views on apartheid. He says it began after he started meeting black South Africans and listened to their experiences under apartheid. He says the interactions set in motion what he calls a profound soul-searching and a clearer understanding of the racist system.

Mr. Verwoerd says he doesn’t consider his transformation a courageous act. He says instead it involved an up-and-down process of working through the evil of apartheid within his family, his group, his church and the white society at large.

Mr. Verwoerd says his country has made remarkable achievements since the advent of majority rule and that South Africans can continue to build a truly non-racial society by maintaining their commitment and avoiding unrealistic expectations.

Click the above links to listen to the interview.