oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - In support of a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister (9 July 1958) : South Africa - white voices

Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



The year 1958 marked the ten year anniversary of National Party rule in South Africa, and their overriding policy of racial segregation known as Apartheid. On the day of the speech under discussion, the current Minister of Native Affairs, H.F. Verwoerd, was less than two months away from being sworn in as South Africa's seventh Prime Minister. During his time as the Minister of Native Affairs Verwoerd became known as the "Architect of Apartheid". As such, his position is diametrically opposed to that of Margaret Ballinger, an elected member of parliament since 1937 in the role of Native Representative. The Native Representatives held four parliamentary seats set aside for White representatives and voted for by Black constituents. Margaret Ballinger had served her constituency of the Eastern Cape for over two decades, but, as much as her international fame, and liberal attitudes towards racial policy were well established, she had not been able to achieve any significant impact in terms of guiding South African politics away from White-minority rule and international disapproval and condemnation. At this point in time Ballinger had largely lost the support of the leadership of the African National Congress, as the younger members, such as Nelson Mandela, moved the organisation towards a more radical, revolutionary uprising. Ballinger, who had advocated for peaceful resistance refused to concede that she was largely ineffectual. At the point of presenting this speech Ballinger and her three colleagues were also within two years of Verwoerd scrapping the Native Representative seats in parliament altogether, and with it their political careers. As a Native Representative, Margaret Ballinger fought tirelessly for the rights of the Black majority, who been increasingly marginalised and subjugated by successive Parliamentary Acts of the White rulers. After time spent studying at Oxford, Ballinger returned and taught history at both Rhodes University and the University of the Witwatersrand. A highly gifted speaker, Ballinger was credited by a Time magazine article in 1944 with being perhaps the best speaker in South Africa's parliament apart from Jan Smuts (then current Prime Minister) and perhaps his protégé Jan Hofmeyr. Ballinger's particular rhetorical style focusses predominantly on the use of logos and extensive substantiation in order to form very powerful arguments and claims. Through comprehensive research, she was able to create arguments that were very difficult to dispute on rational grounds. The choice to steer away from pathos arguments and to avoid ethos claims might initially seem strange, in particular when considered in the light of major ethical questions concerning the ill treatment of Black South Africans. However, the two Nationalist party leaders who had the greatest influence on Apartheid policy (D.F. Malan and H.F. Verwoerd) both held PhDs (in Theology and Psychology respectively) and were very intelligent men, and Ballinger understood they could not be successfully out-manoeuvred using either ethos or pathos due to their superior educational and religious standing. As such, she realised that the audience for her speeches were predominantly conservative, Afrikaner men amongst whom her use of ethos would not stand comparison, and due to the religious aspect, neither would the use of pathos. The other dominant aspect of Ballinger's speeches is her ability to couch her claims and warrants in terms of the best interests of the White men who formed the governing party. While she would express the importance of greater equality for the Black population she represented by ensuring that the argument always revolved around the benefit that would accrue to the White farmers, businessmen and population in general, should this happen, Ballinger was able to constantly undermine the Apartheid façade. Additionally, newspapers reporting on her speeches meant that it became increasingly difficult to contain the veracity of her arguments, and many Parliamentary rebuttals of her positions were no more than ad hominem attacks designed to detract from her ethos. The speech that is presented below is one given by Ballinger in support of a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister of South Africa, J.G. Strijdom, which was brought before the House by the Leader of the Opposition, Sir DeVilliersGraaff of the United Party. Ballinger's speech follows that of J.H. Abraham, the National Party MP for Groblersdal against the motion. Of particular interest in this speech is the manner in which she uses the information supplied by the National Party Government to substantiate her arguments. Unfortunately, the only version of this speech which exists is that of the Hansard transcripts of Parliamentary Debates, which do not clearly record all of the paragraph breaks. I have chosen not to change this, as it could possibly influence the reading of the speech and the interpretation thereof.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error