Wilhelm Verwoerd grateful to South Africans for inviting him on mutual journey

The publishers describe it as an "unflinchingly honest look at loyalty, kinship and the demands of restitution in South Africa."

"Verwoerd: A Journey through Family Betrayals" is a memoir by the grandson of HF Verwoerd, known as the architect of apartheid.

When Wilhelm Verwoerd joined the African National Congress in the 90s, his father accused him of being a traitor.

He speaks to Africa Melane about coming to terms with bearing a name that will always symbolise a dark period in South Africa's history.

I am very aware that the name Verwoerd and the pain that's associated with that, is very difficult to engage with for South Africans of colour.

Wilhelm Verwoerd, Author - "Verwoerd: A Journey through Family Betrayals"

Verwoerd says young black South Africans challenged him to do "white work".

To actively engage with my own community, my own family, people from my ethnic background and say, let's go on a deeper journey to understand what apartheid really meant for the majority of people in this country.

Wilhelm Verwoerd, Author - Verwoerd: A Journey through Family Betrayals

Sometimes it's better to just speak from the personal, to tell a story rather than to give people a big political argument.

Wilhelm Verwoerd, Author - Verwoerd: A Journey through Family Betrayals

He says he's hoping his journey will be relevant to younger South Africans.

I wrote about that time in the 80s when as a young student I went through my political awakening in Holland and in England with the help of black South Africans telling me their stories.

Wilhelm Verwoerd, Author - Verwoerd: A Journey through Family Betrayals

Grappling with a way to deal with his grandfather's legacy, he came upon a diary kept by his grandmother which describes her grief when HF Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966.

This helped him to humanise the man usually viewed as a monster.

That helped me to see him as a full human being and that is why that is also included.

Wilhelm Verwoerd, Author - Verwoerd: A Journey through Family Betrayals

It humanises him without you attempting to excuse any of his actions and decisions...

Africa Melane, Weekend Breakfast presenter

Verwoerd says he's also trying to bring across to his family and conservative Afrikaners that it is not about being rejected in their humanity by fellow South Africans.

It's about taking responsibility for the inhumanity of apartheid and then going on a journey together to humanise everybody, which is really what Archbishop Tutu and many others have told me.

Wilhelm Verwoerd, Author - Verwoerd: A Journey through Family Betrayals

That's ubuntu, that we become human in our relationships with each other.

Wilhelm Verwoerd, Author - Verwoerd: A Journey through Family Betrayals

He says he's grateful for what he describes as fellow South Africans inviting him along on this journey with them, despite what the Verwoerd name symbolises and what his grandfather is responsible for.

Verwoerd will be in conversation with Africa at the launch of his memoir, taking place at the Book Lounge in Cape Town on 12 June from 5.30 pm.

Headline pic from Book Lounge Facebook page

Listen to the conversation here:


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