Andries Treurnicht dies in Cape Town hospital: Right loses strong stabilising force, writes John Carlin

ANDRIES TREURNICHT, the leader of South Africa's far-right Conservative Party, died unexpectedly yesterday evening aged 72 from a heart ailment. He was admitted 10 days ago to a Cape Town hospital for a heart by-pass operation after which, doctors said, he had initially appeared to be on the road to recovery.

The death of Dr Treurnicht, known as 'Dr No' for his consistent opposition to government reforms during the last decade, will be a severe blow to the party that has been the official opposition since 1987, according to parliamentary sources. Tensions between moderates, who seek a negotiated accommodation with the black majority, and hardliners more politically inclined towards the firebrand politics of Eugene Terre-Blanche, seem likely to lead to a split.

Treurnicht's heir-apparent, the deputy party leader Ferdi Hartzenberg, is a less sophisticated, more rigid politician than Treurnicht, who was seen as a stabilising force on the factious South African right.

The conclusion was irresistible last night that Treurnicht's death had been accelerated by the arrest of the Conservative Party stalwart Clive Derby-Lewis on Saturday in connection with the assassination of the African National Congress leader Chris Hani. Treurnicht, who stood up to those in his party and beyond who advocated political violence, was close to Mr Derby-Lewis, with whom he went on a European tour in 1989.

In recent months Treurnicht had softened his party's traditionally inflexible stance, agreeing to do what he had previously vowed never to contemplate - participate in multi-party constitutional talks with the ANC and their Communist Party allies. His party's central demand remained extreme and unlikely to be met - an independent 'Boer' nation outside 'the new South Africa' - but at least, as his political opponents note, he had persuaded his party to seek the road of peaceful negotiation.

Treurnicht, who became a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1946, had by his own standards moderated his political tactics - if not his bedrock apartheid beliefs - in later life.

An important clerical ally in the Sixties of the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, he became a member of parliament of the long-ruling National Party in 1971. In 1976, as deputy minister of Bantu Education, he insisted that black children should receive more of their education in Afrikaans, an insensitive position which sparked the Soweto riots that year and galvanised what in previous years had become a relatively moribund, shackled, black liberation movement.

Opposing the decision of the prime minister, P W Botha, in the early Eighties to admit Asians and mixed- race Coloureds to parliament, he quit the National Party with 15 other MPs in 1982 and formed the Conservative Party. He improved his party's parliamentary representation both in the 1987 and 1989 whites-only elections but suffered a crushing reverse a year ago when, in a national referendum, an overwhelming majority of whites voted for President F W de Klerk's proposals for sharing power with the black majority.

That seemed to be the end for Treurnicht. But he entered into a loose alliance - the Concerned South Africans Grouping (Cosag) - at the end of last year with Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party and other right-wing black leaders. Cosag has since fallen by the wayside and the Conservative Party has headed back into the white laager, striving, increasingly hopelessly, to push peacefully for a Boer republic.

South African police yesterday released two more of the people detained in connection with Hani's murder. Still detained are Mr Derby- Lewis, his wife, Gaye, and the alleged gunman, Janusz Walus.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales

£30 - 40k (£65k Y1 OTE Uncapped): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Deve...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before