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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
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MOUTON, F.A.. 'Liberal crusader': Zach de Beer, apartheid and liberalism 1950-1990. Historia [online]. 2022, vol.67, n.1, pp.89-113. ISSN 2309-8392.

Zach de Beer's political career began in 1950 when as a student leader and a member of the Civil Rights League he addressed a public meeting in the Cape Town City Hall to protest the banning of the Communist Party. Forty years later, in February 1990, he was in parliament when President F.W. de Klerk announced the unbanning of the Communist Party, the African National Congress, and the Pan Africanist Congress. During the darkest years of the apartheid state he, along with others, kept liberal democratic ideals alive. In 1959 he helped to form the liberal Progressive Party, and in 1960 he opposed the banning of the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress. This was a courageous action that would cost him his parliamentary seat in the 1961 general election and led to years in the political wilderness. Outside of parliament, as a prominent figure in the financial world, he continued to encourage constitutional and political reform. In 1988, he became leader of the Progressive Federal Party and played a leading role in the founding of the Democratic Party in 1989. This article shows that the party's good performance in the general election of that year was a crucial factor in pushing De Klerk to initiate the dismantling of the apartheid state in 1990. In recognition of his contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle, President Nelson Mandela appointed him as South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands in 1994.

Keywords : Zach de Beer; liberalism; parliament; rule of law; apartheid; constitutional reform; African National Congress; Progressive Party; Progressive Federal Party; Democratic Party.

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