Verwoerd becomes Prime Minister and NP leader

3 September, 1958

Verwoerd becomes Prime Minister and NP leader

One of the chief architects of the policy of apartheid, Dr. Hendrik Frensch (HF) Verwoerd, was elected leader of the National Party (NP) and assumed office as Prime Minister, following the death of Adv. J.G. Strijdom. Two years after taking office, Verwoerd realised his republican dream, when a White-only referendum supported his plea for a republic. This was also the first time in 12 years of government that the NP was able to gain a majority in parliament. Given this mandate Verwoerd went to London in March 1961 to give formal notice to the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers that South Africa was changing from a monarchy to a republic and to argue his case to remain within the British Commonwealth. This request for a constitutional change would normally have been granted, but because of South Africa's apartheid policy, it was vehemently opposed. Verwoerd then withdrew his application for membership of the Commonwealth.

On 31 May 1961, the Republic of South Africa was established, but within a few years, because of its apartheid policy, South Africa had become an isolated nation.


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  2. Potgieter, D.J. et al. (eds)(1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Cape Town: NASOU.