In his latest book, renowned historian Hermann Giliomee challenges the conventional wisdom on the downfall of white rule and the end of apartheid. Instead of impersonal forces, or the resourcefulness of an indomitable resistance movement, he emphasises the role of Nationalist leaders and of their outspoken critic, Frederick van Zyl Slabbert. What motivated each of the last Afrikaner leaders, from Verwoerd to de Klerk? How did each try to reconcile economic growth, white privilege, and security with the demands of an increasingly assertive black leadership and unexpected population figures?
In exploring each leader's background, reasoning, and personal foibles, Giliomee takes issue with the assumption that South Africa was inexorably heading for an ANC victory in 1994. He argues that historical accidents radically affected the course of politics.
Drawing on primary sources and personal interviews, Giliomee offers a fresh and stimulating political history that attempts not to condemn but to understand why the last Afrikaner leaders did what they did, and why their own policies ultimately failed them.
Hermann Giliomee, Professor of History at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, is the editor or author of thirteen books, including Negotiating South Africa's Future and The Afrikaners: Biography of a People (Virginia). He is the founder of Die Suid-Afrikaan, an Afrikaans journal of opinion, and he has been a regular columnist for the Cape Times, Rand Daily Mail, and other periodicals.