n African Journal on Conflict Resolution - Peacemaking in South Africa - A Life in Conflict Resolution, H.W. Van der Merwe : book review

Volume 2 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1562-6997


This is the autobiography of a man who played a significant role in the peace-making process in South Africa that led to the negotiated settlement in 1994, which is often described as the South African "miracle". H.W. van der Merwe, now deceased after a long illness, had been described by the media as the man "who brings South Africa's enemies together".

Although he tells his own story, his autobiography is also the story of how the South African "miracle" began to take shape in the early stages that preceded the political negotiations of the 1990s. By and large it all started in 1984 when H.W. (called "Harvey" by many English-speaking people - according to the Afrikaans pronunciation of his initials) facilitated the first meetings between the African National Congress (ANC) in exile and supporters of the apartheid regime. Chapter 11, which relates these events, makes fascinating reading. The slow process of convincing government officers and supporters about the necessity of at least meeting with members of the ANC clearly comes to the fore.

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