Prime Minister of South Africa, secretary of the National Party
Lives of Courage
Born on 14 July 1893, J G Strijdom served as Prime Minister of South Africa from 30 November 1954 to 24 August 1958. During the 1920s Strijdom practised law in Nylstroom, now known as Modimolle, in the Limpopo Province. He was a secretary of the National Party's district committee.
In 1929 Strijdom was elected to Parliament as the member for the Waterberg. He was the only senior Transvaal Nationalist to refuse to join the 1934-coalition administration with the United Party (UP) formed by J B M Hertzog and J C Smuts. He became the Transvaal provincial leader of the National Party (NP) and devoted his formidable energies to restructuring the party organisation, earning himself the sobriquet 'Lion of the North'. He served as a Minister of Land and Irrigation in D F Malan's 1948 government, and on the latter's retirement in 1954, and despite his own poor health, he was elected leader of the NP and thus became Premier.
Strijdom's relatively brief term of office brought the long running 'Coloured issue' to its unhappy conclusion. His predecessor had unsuccessfully manoeuvred for the removal of the franchise for Coloured South Africans. This had been constitutionally entrenched in terms of the South Africa Act of 1909 and any change required a two-thirds majority approval by both Houses of Parliament. Strijdom abandoned any scruples that may have remained within the governing party and simply enlarged, and changed the composition of, both the Senate (by the Senate Act of 1956) and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Both bodies were packed with NP loyalists. Other significant events during this period included the march by 20 000 women against passes, the endorsement of the Freedom Charter, which embraced the ideological principles of the African National Congress (ANC) and other liberation movements, at Kliptown near Johannesburg (1956) and a massive police crackdown that saw thousands arrested, restricted and 'banned' (1956). The beginning, in 1957, of the protracted Treason Trial of the government's extra-parliamentary opponents also took place.