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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Van Zyl Slabbert, Frederik

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Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert was born in Pretoria on 2 March 1940. Slabbert matriculated from Pietersburg High School in 1958. He studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in order to become a Dutch Reformed minister. He later attended the University of Stellenbosch where he completed his BA. He registered for an MA degree in Sociology and gave up his theological studies that year.

In 1965 he was promoted to lecturer. In 1972 he lectured at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and later became head of the Department of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand. Slabbert's political involvement developed through his work in sociology and his contact with black students at the university and in the church. He held lectures and discussions on politics and tried to establish a student newspaper with an editorial viewpoint opposed to government policy. Slabbert joined the Progressive Party and won their Rondebosch seat in the 1974 general election. In 1979 he became leader of the opposition. He was instrumental in forcing the issue of black/white constitutional relationships to the centre of parliamentary debate. In October 1985 Slabbert and other members of the PFP's federal executive committee met with an African National Congress (ANC) delegation in Lusaka.

In February 1986 Slabbert resigned from the PFP and as an MP, having decided the tricameral parliament was no longer an institution through which he could work for fundamental change. He taught at UCT until the end of 1986 and travelled abroad to raise funds for a new national body to research and promote democracy in South Africa. The Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (Idasa) was established.

Slabbert served as a political consultant to both government and the private sector in the post-apartheid period. He has subsequently entered the world of big business and sits on the board of directors of various companies, such as Caxton's CTP.

Slabbert was Visiting Fellow at All Souls Oxford 1989 and Tanner Lecturer on

Human Rights at Brasenose College Oxford 1987; holds Hon Doctorates from

Simon Fraser University, Vancouver; Natal University; and University of the Free State

SA. He was research Fellow at MIT and Arnold Berstraesser Institute Freiburg, West Germany.

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.