Heinz Klug is a white man born in South Africa who vehemently fought apartheid from both within South Africa and outside in exile. Klug believed that South Africa was in need of a constitutional democracy that allowed for the majority to be represented by the rulers of the nation. Participating in the student press union, Solidarity News Service, Medu, and the ANC Constitution Committee, Klug inserted himself into the conflict of South African apartheid and aided in the transition of the post-apartheid nation.


Heinz Klug, Durban, Group Areas Act, segregation, Student Representative Council, South African Student Press Union, anti-apartheid, exile, Botswana, South African News Agency (SANA), Solidarity News Service, Medu, United States, Bay Area Anti-Apartheid Committee, ANC Constitution Committee, ANC Land Commission, CODESA, comparative law, constitutional law

Heinz Klug. Image source

Heinz Klug was a student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal when he chose exile over conscription to the army. As a white man in South Africa, apartheid policies did not disadvantage him, but he still continued to fight for the rights of the majority black South Africans in the nation. His involvement in the student press union, his writings in the Solidarity News Service, and his participation in Medu Arts Ensemble showed his endless devotion to aid in the anti-apartheid struggle even from exile and difficult times. Klug later graduated with a law degree in the United States where he also received a green card. He participated in the creation of the new constitution in South Africa as a research assistant for the chairperson of the ANC Constitution Committee and as a member of the ANC Land Commission. Although he was not personally disadvantaged by apartheid legislation due to his status as a white man, Heinz Klug used his time in exile to notify the world about what was happening in South Africa and his experiences to help reconstruct the government in the nation’s early post-apartheid transition.

Heinz Klug was born on April 7, 1957 in Durban, South Africa. His mother’s family came to South Africa from Mauritius in the early 1900s.[i] They were involved in shipping and moved to the port city of Durban to live on the border between a predominantly Indian neighborhood and a traditionally white neighborhood.[ii] His grandmother on his mother’s side married a man of German, Afrikaans nationality.[iii] His father was German and came to South Africa in 1953, during which time he married Klug’s mother. Durban at the time of Klug’s childhood was a segregated city in which most of the land was designated for white South Africans under the Group Areas Act with black and coloured South Africans living in the outermost areas of the city.[iv] Many whites in Durban called for and supported this discriminatory legislation since it aided whites in maintaining priority land and a higher socioeconomic status than the other races.[v] Therefore, “essentially no Africans lived in the core areas of the city.”[vi] By the 1980s, the segregation in Durban was almost at 100%.

While Klug was not aware of this segregation as a young child, he became accustomed and aware of the different areas of Durban for different races within the nation.[vii] Klug notes that growing up, he realized that “the beaches were only for some people and not others.”[viii] South Africans in the 1950s grew up in a time in which segregation was a part of the culture of the nation and were socialized into believing that this was the way in which the country had to function. With housing, lifestyle, and education completely segregated, Klug did not have many interactions with South Africans of other races in his early years. However, since he was a product of an Indian mother and German father, Klug noticed early on in his education that he was darker than others in the white schools in Durban. He was teased and called “darkest Africa” and “black boy” even through high school.[ix] While the most prevalent language in Durban was isiZulu, Klug continued to learn through English in school until his final years of high school in which he was required to learn in Afrikaans and finish high school in Afrikaans. This type of bleak racism shows the nature of the times that Heinz Klug grew up in and that apartheid discrimination affected those of all ages and colors, including white South Africans.

Heinz Klug entered the whites-only University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa in 1975. He was head of the fencing club on campus in his first year.  While there was not much action in terms of rebellion against apartheid in his first year, demonstrations picked up speed in his second year at university, causing Klug to become more active in the anti-apartheid movement on campus in early 1976.[x] His active anti-apartheid friends in university convinced him to run for the Student Representative Council to which he was elected in April of 1976.[xi] He participated in this organization when “all hell broke loose…and there was no turning back” in mid 1976 with student uprisings, demonstrations, and deaths such as what happened in Soweto.[xii] Klug was also involved in the student press at the university where he and his fellow students wrote critiques of apartheid legislation and was elected President of the South African Student Press Union soon after.[xiii] Despite constant censorship of articles and threats on his life, Klug continued to upset the regime by speaking out against apartheid in articles and producing protest materials. One particular article Klug remembers working on was a graphic of photos of anti-apartheid activists who died in detention with the various causes of death the apartheid regime claimed to be factual.[xiv] Through his involvement in the student press, Klug travelled abroad and met with members of the African National Congress in exile to receive information and further the ANC’s message.[xv]

After Heinz Klug finished his three-year degree at KwaZulu-Natal and his one-year honors degree, he chose to leave Durban due to increasing pressures on the university faculty and students in the city including death threats and assassinations.[xvi] Klug moved to Cape Town to stay away from the “limelight of the individual policemen in Durban who became personal with [him].”[xvii] He began a masters in African history, but was a few months into this degree when the regime began to threaten him in Cape Town. The regime denied his deferment claim from the military. During the 1970’s, white men would be called up to serve in the South African Defense Force (SADF) and the regime would punish those men who avoided mandatory conscription.[xviii] Since Klug protested his conscription for political reasons rather than religious reasons, he had no legal claim to avoid his conscription, but still was not in a position where he would be willing to serve.[xix] While Klug’s parents were not actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement, he felt as though it was the job of the younger generation to actively protest against the regime.[xx] These two factors of actively protesting the regime and being unwilling to participate in mandatory conscription into the SADF forced Heinz Klug to choose exile instead of prison.

Heinz Klug fled apartheid South Africa to Botswana and remained there from June 1979 until June 1985. There, Klug prepared to take over the South African News Agency (SANA) run out of Botswana during this time.[xxi] He then turned this agency into Solidarity News Service, which aided in spreading news and information from South African press organizations into the international sector with anti-apartheid sentiment.[xxii] This news service allowed for the ANC in exile, international organizations, and other states in Southern Africa to receive real-time news on the truth behind apartheid in South Africa (Klug 2016). Klug also became active in Medu Arts Ensemble, an organization of exiled South African artists, where he contributed graphic art and was Treasurer of the Culture and Resistance Conference in 1982.[xxiii] This conference raised money to bring South African artists to Botswana to contribute to the anti-apartheid movement from there and help in their exile from South Africa.[xxiv] From Botswana, Klug also aided the ANC underground. Heinz Klug met his wife, Gay Seidman, an American studying at Berkeley, in Botswana in 1982 and she proceeded to live with him for nine months in 1983.[xxv] His brother soon came to join him in exile as well. In 1985, he visited his girlfriend at the time in the United States in early June. A couple days after Klug flew to California, on June 14, 1985, Solidarity News Service headquarters in Botswana was attacked via military raid from South Africa.[xxvi] The next day, the military in South Africa said, “one of the few names they could confirm that they killed was [himself] ,” but Klug was unaware of this news as he was in San Francisco, California during the time of the attack.[xxvii] Heinz Klug knew at this point that the regime was targeting him in their attack and understood that he would be unable to return to Southern Africa at this point in time.

During his time in America, Heinz Klug returned to school and continued his commitment to the anti-apartheid movement abroad. Klug’s first job in California was as a paralegal where he first experienced law as a tool to protect people rather than hurt and discriminate as he saw in South Africa.[xxviii] This led him to enroll at the University of California-Hastings School of Law in San Francisco in September 1986.[xxix] During his time as a law school student, he joined his wife in her anti-apartheid activities such as speaking out for the divestment movement to dismantle international aid and trade from the United States to the South African regime.[xxx] He also became active in the Bay Area Anti-Apartheid Committee, which was an association that included a group of lawyers against apartheid who worked to open borders to South African refugees facing political oppression from the apartheid regime.[xxxi] The committee unified all Bay Area anti-apartheid groups under one coalition against racism both in the United States and in apartheid South Africa.[xxxii] Klug received his green card in 1987 and graduated with a J.D. from University of California-Hastings School of Law in 1989.

At the beginning of the fall of the apartheid regime in 1989, Heinz Klug returned to Southern Africa. Since Klug had a set of legal skills that he learned in the United States, he began to work for the ANC Constitution Committee as a researcher for Zola Skweyiya, the chairperson.[xxxiii] He worked for this group out of Zimbabwe where he would commute back and forth from the United States over the course of the year.[xxxiv] He then ultimately returned to South Africa in 1990 where he aided in the reconstruction of the ANC Headquarters in Johannesburg where the Convention for a Democratic South Africa negotiations would soon follow.[xxxv] CODESA began in December 1991 as negotiations between mainly the ANC and NP to reconstruct the South African government to allow for democratic elections.[xxxvi] The ANC’s Constitution Committee was present during these negotiations. He also worked as a Secretariat in the ANC Land Commission.[xxxvii] This commission worked to solve land reform issues such as dispossession during apartheid and providing land as a way to improve livelihood.[xxxviii] Although there were no physical changes in terms of apartheid structure in the country from 1979 when he first went into exile until 1990 when he was finally able to return, the fact that negotiations began at this time shows the regime’s willingness to cooperate and change in some degrees. He notes that it is hard to change the physical structure of such a long-lasting regime that greatly affected the physical features of the nation and that much of the apartheid structure can still be seen today.[xxxix] However, those who were returning from exile had contacts and relations with other South Africans of all races from their times in exile and therefore, many communities of returning exiled South Africans were non-racial.[xl] During his time in South Africa from 1991 to 1996, Klug also lectured at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on Human Rights Law, Post-Apartheid Law, and South African Law to name a few.[xli] Heinz Klug played a defining role both in aiding the ANC’s return to South Africa and in providing his knowledge in law to help discover ways to reconstruct South Africa at the end of apartheid.

Heinz Klug’s main research as a law professor both at the University of Witwatersrand and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been on issues discussed in post-apartheid negotiations such as comparative constitutional law and the role of constitutional institutions in a democracy. Klug notes that South Africa, along with many other nations on the African continent, is a pluri-nation in that it contains multiple races and ethnic groups within the borders.[xlii] Therefore, a constitution in this type of nation must include rights for all those who live within its borders. This kind of constitution-building requires interdependence, autonomy, and pluralism in that each local government is intertwined with another, that each local government still has the ability to govern those within their borders so long as it does not interfere with the federal level government and that each group’s interests are accurately well-represented in government.[xliii]  In his piece in the New York Law Review titled “Accountability and the Role of Independent Constitutional Institutions in South Africa’s Post-Apartheid Constitutions,” Klug articulates that the constitution needs to “ensure multiple avenues for democratic and legal contestation” by other minority groups in the nation for a democracy to work well.[xliv] Therefore, the role of the institutions created in a constitution, particularly in the case of South Africa, would be to distribute power among them to counteract such a large majority in government.[xlv] By looking at the constitutions of nations around the world and the successes and failures they received within their own nations, South African constitutional activists were able to construct a constitution that best fit the nation and would aid in the transition towards democracy. Klug sees the constitution that was ultimately created from negotiations in South Africa as a “fantastic breakthrough” in terms of the way it was structured to include institutions and declarations of rights, but the real test is implementing its meaning into the daily use of the South African government.[xlvi] This constitution and its basic structure attempts to fulfill Klug’s idea of interdependence among institutions and local governments, autonomy to these governments, and pluralism so that all South Africans maintain a role in the governance of the nation.


Heinz Klug greatly aided in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and in exile through his published articles, his work with the constitution committee and land commission, and his ability to survive despite constant threats. His research assistance in the creation of the constitution allowed for a stable political structure with institutions protecting all citizens in South Africa. Today, Klug lives in Wisconsin with his family where he continues to teach at the University of Wisconsin School of Law where he has been since 1996. He has written many books such as Constituting Democracy in 2000 and The Constitution of South Africa in 2010 as well as his most recent Comparative Constitutional Law. He is invited to speak at conferences internationally. He offers courses in the law department in Comparative Law, Constitutional Law, Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and International Law. While Klug mentions government corruption as one of the main issues facing South Africa today, he still has high hopes that his country will continue to evolve and prosper in the post-apartheid years.



‘An Interview with Professor Heinz Klug.’ N.d. Available at https://law.wisc.edu/ [Accessed 18 October 2016]

Klug, H., 2013a. ‘Heinz Klug: Reflections on Nelson Mandela’s Legacy.’ Image from University of Wisconsin [online] Available at http://news.wisc.edu/ [Accessed 25 October 2016]

Klug, H., 2013b. ‘The Impact of Law for a Better World.’ from Hasselt University, 3 June [online] Available at https://www.youtube.com/[Accessed 18 October 2016]

Klug, H., 2015. ‘Accountability and the Role of Independent Constitutional Institutions in South Africa’s Post-Apartheid Constitutions.’ New York Law School Law Review, 60, no.1, 153-180.

Klug, H., 2016. ‘Ashley Rogers Phone Interview with Heinz Klug.’ (Interviewed November 17, 2016).


Bay Area Anti-Apartheid Network. N.d. [Online] Available at http://kora.matrix.msu.edu/ [Accessed 5 December 2016].

End Conscription Campaign (ECC) 2011. South Africa History Online. [Online] Available at http://www.sahistory.org.za/[Accessed 27 October 2016].

‘Law in Action Profile: Professor Heinz Klug’ Available at https://law.wisc.edu/profiles/[Accessed 18 October 2016].

Magubane, B., 2010. ‘The ANC, CODESA, Substantive Negotiations and the Road to the First Democratic Elections’ in The Road to Democracy in South Africa, Vol 6 Part 2 [1990-1996], Pretoria: Unisa Press.

Maharaj, B., 1997. ‘Apartheid, Urban Segregation, and the Local State: Durban and the Group Areas Act in South Africa’, Urban Geography, 18:2, 135-154.

Sanders, B.D., 1989. ‘Exiled S. African Fights For Freedom’ from the Sun Sentinel, 16 April [online] Available at http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/[Accessed 18 October 2016].

Schensul, D., 2008. ‘From Resources to Power: The State and Spatial Change in Post-Apartheid Durban, South Africa’ in Studies in Comparative International Development Vol. 43.3-4 [Dec 2008].

Medu and the Culture of Liberation. 2011. South Africa History Online. [Online] Available at: http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/medu-and-culture-liberation [Accessed 16 November 2016].

Land Reform Policy Discussion Document.. 2012. South Africa History Online.  [Online] Available at: http://www.sahistory.org.za/archive/land-reform-policy-discussion-document-june-2012 [Accessed 21 November 2016].

End Notes

[i] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[ii] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[iii] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[iv] Maharaj 1997, 135-154.

[v] Maharaj 1997, 135-154.

[vi] Schensul 2008.

[vii] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[viii] Klug 2016, Phone Interview, 0:55-1:02.

[ix] Klug 2016, Phone Interview, 2:15-2:45.

[x] An Interview with Professor Heinz Klug, N.d.; Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xi] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xii] Klug 2016, Phone Interview, 10:20-10:35.

[xiii] An Interview with Professor Heinz Klug, N.d.

[xiv] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xv] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xvi] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xvii] Klug 2016, Phone Interview, 16:25-16:35.

[xviii] End Conscription Campaign, 2011, SAHO.

[xix] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xx] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxi] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxii] Sanders 1989, Sun Sentinel.

[xxiii] Medu and the Culture of Liberation, 2011, SAHO; Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxiv] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxv] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxvi] Sanders 1989, Sun Sentinel.

[xxvii] Sanders 1989; Klug 2016.

[xxviii] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxix] Law in Action Profile.

[xxx] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxxi] Sanders 1989, Sun Sentinel.

[xxxii] Bay Area Anti-Apartheid Network.

[xxxiii] Law in Action Profile.

[xxxiv] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxxv] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxxvi] Magubane 2010.

[xxxvii] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xxxviii] Land Reform Policy, 2012, SAHO.

[xxxix] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xl] Klug 2016, Phone Interview.

[xli] Law in Action Profile.

[xlii] Klug 2013b.

[xliii] Klug 2013b.

[xliv] Klug 2015 p.155.

[xlv] Klug 2015.

[xlvi] Klug 2016, Phone Interview, 30:00-30:10.

This article forms part of the SAHO and Southern Methodist University partnership project

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