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Prof Willie Esterhuyse (1936 - )

The Order of Luthuli in

Prof Willie Esterhuyse (1936 - ) Awarded for:
His outstanding role in opening and maintaining dialogue between the ANC and the apartheid government, which contributed both to the removal of obstacles to negotiations to end apartheid and create a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa

Profile of Prof Willie Esterhuyse

Professor Willie Esterhuyse was born in 1936 in Laingsburg, Western Cape. From humble beginnings Esterhuyse rose to become a leading Afrikaner writer, philosopher and intellectual.

Prof Esterhuyse has published extensively over a wide area including philosophical and political issues. He has authored amongst others: Apartheid must die and The Road to Reform.

Among other awards, Prof Esterhuyse has been the recipient of the Stals Prize for Philosophy from the SAAcademy of Arts and Science; the Sunday Times Prestige Prize for Political Literature and the Leon/Fox Community Relations Award Prof Esterhuyse is a leading figure in the Afrikaner community who, through immense foresight and profound love for his country, realised the futility of trying to sustain Apartheid. In an attempt to forestall a bloodbath and at great risk to his own standing and credibility, he doggedly persevered with the task of convincing other significant leaders within his own community of the need to open negotiations with the ANC.

These initial talks, at first testing the waters, paved the way to real engagement and enabled both sides to develop a deeper understanding of the fears, desires, needs and wants of the other.

Later when real negotiations stalled, Prof Esterhuyse’s cool head and keen sense of fair-play and justice prevailed to drag negotiators back to the table.

Prof Willie Esterhuyse made a humble yet significant contribution to the ultimate success of negotiations, which finally led to the interim constitution that laid the basis for full democracy in South Africa.