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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


MOUTON, F.A.. "Had it too easy?" Frederik van Zyl Slabbert's resignation as leader of the official parliamentary opposition, 7 February 1986. Historia [online]. 2015, vol.60, n.2, pp.68-86. ISSN 2309-8392.

For Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, his resignation on 7 February1986 as the leader of the Progressive Federal Party and the official parliamentary opposition was a principled, self-sacrificing political statement, an act of political courage to alert whites to the harsh reality that South Africa was on the verge of a race revolution, and that parliament had entrenched apartheid and could not be used to get rid of it. This essay argues that the reality is more complex and ambiguous, and that the journalist Ken Owen's accusations that the fault did not reside with the parliamentary system, but with Slabbert himself, must be taken seriously. Owen alleged that Slabbert could deal with success, but not with defeat, because he had risen too far too fast in politics. The article concludes that Slabbert was a man of brilliant gifts, but for the leader of a small liberal party in a racist and conservative white society he lacked one crucial characteristic - tenacity - the dogged determination to keep on fighting whatever the cost.

Keywords : Frederik van Zyl Slabbert; Ken Owen; Progressive Federal Party; official opposition; parliament; resignation; apartheid.

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