About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

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Wessels, Leon

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Leon Wessels was born in the Orange Free State on 19 April 1946. He matriculated at Hoërskool Monument in 1963; attended the South African Police College from 1964 to 1966 and he completed his LLB at Potchefstroom University in 1972. In 1997 he received an LLM (cum laude) and in 2001 received an LLD from the Rand Afrikaans University.

Wessels was chairman of the Student's Representative Council in 1971 and president of the Afrikaner Studentebond between 1971 and 1973. He was part of a student delegation which met the Student's Representative Council of the University of the North. There he met leading Black Consciousness exponents who greatly influenced his views on the South African situation. He joined the Johannesburg Bar as an advocate in 1973. In 1974 he was elected Member of the Transvaal Provincial Council for Krugersdorp, and also served on the council of the Federation of Junior Rapportryers. From 1974 until 1977 he was leader of the Nasionale Jeugbond in the Transvaal and served as an ex officio member of the Transvaal executive and head committees of the National Party (NP).

Wessels enjoyed a political career for more than 22 years. He was elected Member of Parliament for Krugersdorp in 1977 and served as deputy Minister of Law and Order (1988), deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (1989), Minister of Planning, Provincial Affairs and National Housing (1991) and, finally, as Minister of Local Government, National Housing and Manpower (1992).

He participated in the CODESA negotiations at Kempton Park (1991-1994) which was working for the peaceful political reorganisation of post-apartheid South Africa.

In the 1994 democratic election he stood as an NP candidate and was returned to parliament. He was elected deputy chairman of the Constituent Assembly (1994-1996), but stepped down from parliament and politics at the inception of the final constitution.

Since 1999 he has served as a Commissioner to the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC). He has been an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa since 1973 and is currently also an Honorary Professor of Law, Department of Public Law, at the North-West University, previously University of Potchefstroom.

He has participated in peace talks in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, the Great Lakes region of Africa and Sri Lanka.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.