LISTEN | Wilhelm Verwoerd in conversation with Eusebius McKaiser

'There is a stigma, there is a deep wounding associated with this name, this person and this period and with my own involvement in that system"

15 July 2019 - 09:50

“Don’t run away from who you are. Rather use the power of your surname for good,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu told Wilhelm Verwoerd.

When, in the 1990s, Wilhelm Verwoerd spoke out against his grandfather’s racist policies, his father called him a traitor.

After many years of working in Northern Ireland, brokering peace between former enemies, he returns to his homeland to make his own peace.

Back home, he listens to the painful stories of the past as told to him by his black neighbours and friends. He struggles to reconcile the hated symbol of apartheid with the loving husband he encounters in Betsie Verwoerd’s intimate diaries.

This moving memoir examines the complexities of having Verwoerd blood in your veins in the full knowledge that HF Verwoerd had blood on his hands.

It is an unflinchingly honest look at loyalty, kinship and the demands of restitution in SA.

Author Wilhelm Verwoerd recently discussed his poignant and honest memoir with Eusebius McKaiser on 702:

“Filled with fascinating insights into the legacy of a man who represented good for his people, the Afrikaners, while entrenching himself as one of the cornerstones of evil for my people, the Africans.”
– Lukhanyo Calata

“A virtuosic odyssey into one man’s purgatory for redemption from the political sins of his grandfather.”
– Jeremy Vearey

“It would be easy to dismiss a book written by the grandson of Dr Hendrik Verwoerd as one of those revisionist texts that seek to minimise the impact of apartheid and the transgenerational consequences of the immeasurable suffering that it created. Wilhelm Verwoerd’s book explodes this perspective and challenges us to witness what it means to hold at once the love that one has for one’s family, and a deep sense of responsibility to engage in action for social justice. His story offers us a powerful example of the internal journey involved in facing history and staying with the complexity thrown up by the matrix of its sometimes-bewildering interacting factors.”
– Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela