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Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert (Posthumous)

The Order of the Baobab in

Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to pushing members of Parliament to reject inequalities and unjust laws. He stood with courage of his convictions and bore the brunt of apartheid leaders.
Profile of Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert (Posthumous)

Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert was born in Pretoria on 2 March 1940, and spent his formative years in Limpopo, where he captained his school’s first cricket and rugby teams. He studied for 18 months at the Dutch Reformed Church theological seminary at the University of Stellenbosch before deciding sociology was his proper calling.

He completed a BA Honours at Stellenbosch University in 1962, and was awarded a doctorate in 1967. From 1964 to 1973 he lectured in sociology at Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University and the University of Cape Town. During this period his interest in the position of the coloured people of the Western Cape led him into confrontation with the National Party, and he joined a multiracial discussion group named Synthesis, which sought to promote black-white dialogue.

In 1973, he was appointed head of the Department of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1979 he accepted the leadership of the Progressive Party (PP). In 1985 he travelled to Lusaka for talks with the external wing of the African National Congress and launched the National Convention Movement in an unsuccessful attempt to pressure the government to negotiate with all political groups.

In July 1986 Slabbert formed the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (Idasa). He became a director of Idasa, and undertook an intricate process of shuttle diplomacy aimed at bringing resistance groups together with influential figures in the white establishment in South Africa. In July 1987, to the government’s fury, he took a group of about 60 influential white South Africans, most of them Afrikaners, to Dakar, Senegal, for talks with an ANC delegation.

In the 1990s he branched out into business, becoming Chairperson of Caxton Publishers, Adcorp Holdings and Metro Cash ‘n Carry, as well as holding various directorships. He also co-founded Khula, a black investment trust. Slabbert accepted the position of Chancellor of his alma mater, the University of Stellenbosch, in 2008.

Slabbert’s health deteriorated and he passed away in May 2010.