Balthazar Johannes Vorster

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Balthazar Johannes Vorster

Biographical information

Synopsis:

Lawyer, instrumental in the founding of the Ossewa-Brandwag, and also became a general in its paramilitary wing, Minister of Justice, Prime Minister of South Africa and later President of South Africa

First name: 
Balthazar
Middle name: 
Johannes
Last name: 
Vorster
Date of birth: 
13 December 1915
Location of birth: 
Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Date of death: 
10 September 1983
Location of death: 
Cape Town, South Africa

B.J. Vorster was born in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape in 1915 and was the fifteenth son of a wealthy sheep farmer. He studied law at Stellenbosch University and set up his first practice in Port Elizabeth. From 1939 he vehemently opposed South Africa's entry into and participation in the Second World War.

Vorster was instrumental in the founding of the anti-British Ossewa-Brandwag, and also became a general in its paramilitary wing. In 1953 he was elected to Parliament as member for Nigel and was appointed Deputy Minister in 1958. Three years later Vorster was given the portfolio of Justice, combining it with that of Police and Prisons in 1966. In the same year he succeeded Hendrik Verwoerd as Prime Minister.

His 12-year term of office was characterised by an escalation in racial conflict, and there was a marked increase in detentions without trial. In 1978 his image suffered damage as a result of the so-called ‘Information Scandal'. He was exonerated from direct responsibility in the affair, but had to resign from the Premiership. He was appointed State President, but the scandal had cast a shadow over his credibility and he had to resign once again. His health was also declining at that stage and he died in Cape Town in 1983.

Last updated : 29-Apr-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011